WME-IMG Power Lawyer Seth Krauss Compares Buying Blitz to "Changing Tires on a Moving Car"

THR Shoot - Seth Krauss - Photographed by Christopher Patey - H 2017
Photographed by Christopher Patey

The former Manhattan DA — and THR's 2017 Raising the Bar honoree — has guided the company through 16 buys in as many months, including the Professional Bull Riders organization: "It certainly is a larger platform than when I started."

When Seth Krauss started his career as a deputy district attorney in Manhattan 22 years ago, he never fathomed that one day he'd need to study up on livestock law. But when WME-IMG — where Krauss, 46, has been chief legal officer since 2014 — purchased the Professional Bull Riders organization in 2015, suddenly he had to become an expert on all things bovine.

Overseeing a team of 120 lawyers across the globe, Krauss took the job just as the company embarked on an expansion far bigger than when William Morris merged with Endeavor in 2009. "It certainly is a larger platform than when I started," says Krauss of the company after its 16-month acquisition blitz (other new buys include the Miss Universe Organization and Ultimate Fighting Championship). "You're sort of asked to change tires on a moving car."

Although Krauss has show business in his blood — he is the son of the late Tony-winning Broadway producer Marvin Krauss — he didn't plan on a Hollywood career (he still lives in New York with his wife and two kids). After graduating from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, he spent eight years in the Manhattan DA's Office, where he prosecuted the Enron case and investigated the role of Chase and Citibank in the 2008 financial collapse before moving on to Wall Street and working his way up within Morgan Stanley.

But in 2007, Krauss decided to chart a different course and took a gig with video game developer Take-Two Interactive. "I really liked the idea of going into a place that made something other than wealth," he explains of his decision to leave Morgan Stanley. Then, after nearly eight years as general counsel at Take-Two, Krauss was offered the job at WME. "They were acquiring IMG, and they needed someone as the chief legal officer of the combined company," he says. "They had to get things in order [in case they wanted] to go public."

The 5,400-employee WME-IMG hasn't yet pulled the IPO trigger, so Krauss instead has been working with co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell on risk management and making sure everything is aboveboard — so that the only bull they're talking involves the actual rodeo.

This story first appeared in the April 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.