Gersh goes against the grain

Agency changes location, grows in tough times

When all the lights are turned on at the fifth and sixth floors of 9465 Wilshire Blvd. Monday morning, the smell of rich, dark wood will hover in the air and the marble countertops will gleam reflectively.

It won't be long before the phones start ringing and the dealmaking at Gersh will begin, as agents and their assistants settle into their new digs in Beverly Hill's Golden Triangle.

The Gersh Agency is now referring to itself as Gersh, unveiling the simplified name and logo to go with its new locale. And it's doing so at a time when studios are making fewer movies, when good deals for their clients are harder to negotiate, and when other companies are consolidating and laying people off.

"This is the result of a very planned and steady growth over the last ten years," co-president David Gersh said. "In a very smart way, we've continued to grow our departments and to build our core business, and we've added some new business too. We've been bringing in agents from outside and we've been growing agents from inside."

The agency says it's been growing in size by 10%-15% a year, with revenue growing about 5%-10% a year, except during the 2007-08 writers strike. It has done so thanks to such rising stars as Kristen Stewart and Anna Faris, indie stalwarts Sam Rockwell and Catherine Keener, TV mainstays such as Christopher Meloni, Marcia Cross and Debra Messing and hot writers Diablo Cody and director Marc Webb.

The agency on Friday hired its fourth person in the fall-out of the Endeavor/William Morris Agency merger: Carolyn Sibitz from WMA. (Of the four hires, two were hired pre-merger, two post.) And its film financing and packaging division, launched in April and headed by Jay Cohen, has already secured $30 million to set up indie projects.

This follows the opening of a New York-based theatrical tour booking division and a slew of promotions.

The new space is actually the old offices of former high-flying management outfit the Firm. The space had been vacated for quite some time when Gersh began looking for new digs to accommodate ts growth. The company had been spread out over three buildings, with the main building, which it still owns, being a rather tight and narrow space.

Now, with expansive views up Beverly Boulevard toward the Santa Monica Mountains or east down Wilshire Boulevard and toward a good chunk of the Los Angeles Basin, the agency, with 65 agents, hopes the new digs and logo will make people look at it not only as a serious alternative to the big agencies but also as one that is just as competitive amid a field that includes but is not limited to ICM, UTA and Paradigm.

"CAA and WME have made it very clear that they only want to represent the top 2% of the business," managing partner Leslie Siebert said. "That is not our goal. Our goal is to represent top talent in every area -- filmmakers, writers, producers, actors -- and represent them in the best way possible and with a personal managerial approach."

Co-president Bob Gersh added: "We don't want 2,000 clients. We don't think you can best service those clients. We want to be perceived in a different way, but I think we are very competitive. And we're competitive in that we do a great job on behalf of the client."

The new space, which at 35,000 square feet more than doubles Gersh's old office space, is classical in style -- and just happens to be right next door to the new building being constructed by WME.

"Even though the market place is not as strong as it used to be, there's still plenty of money out there," Siebert observed. "When things get slow, you rebuild, and you continue to build your business and think of alternative ways to make money."
comments powered by Disqus