WME Offers Updated Proposal to Writers Guild Amid Standoff

Ariel Emanuel, Patrick Whitesell and Ari Greenburg_Split - Getty - H 2019
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Endeavor's Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, WME's Ari Greenburg.

The Beverly Hills-based firm says it's willing to meet with the guild over the holidays to make a deal.

WME, the lone major Hollywood talent agency that has yet to make a deal with the Writers Guild of America to represent scribes since a standoff began 20 months ago, says it has submitted a new proposal to union leadership.

“WME has updated the terms of our proposal and submitted it to the WGA in a good-faith effort to jumpstart our discussions. We want to find a way forward with the Guild and return to representing our writer-clients," a spokesperson for the Beverly Hills-based firm said Tuesday.

The agency rep added: "We are willing and available to meet with the Guild as soon as possible, including over the holidays, in order to reach a resolution." A spokesperson for the Writers Guild did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

WME had been seen as particularly reluctant to agree to terms with the guild given that its parent firm, Endeavor, overseen by CEO Ari Emanuel and executive chairman Patrick Whitesell, owns film and TV company Endeavor Content. The Writers Guild has called such affiliate production a conflict of interest and is seeking to have agencies cap ownership in those entities at 20 percent.

The updated proposal from WME, led by president Ari Greenburg, follows breakthrough deals the guild has made with other talent firms this year after thousands of writers parted ways with their agents in April 2019. Paradigm inked a five-year agreement in March, UTA reached a deal in July and ICM Partners struck an agreement in August. (CAA also claimed to have made a deal in September, but the Writers Guild said terms weren't agreed upon.)

Then, on Dec. 16, CAA, which also financially backs a production entity, film and TV studio wiip, agreed to terms with the Writers Guild and pledged to divest its stake in wiip to 20 percent and provide evidence of the sale. The agency also agreed to sunset the practice of packaging fees — in which agents are paid directly by a studio for attaching talent to a writer's pitch — by June 30, 2022.

The same day that CAA agreed to terms with the Writers Guild, WME struck an optimistic tone about the potential for a deal. A rep noted Dec. 16 that the agency had reached out to the union for "specific terms of their agreement" and suggested the deal was a "positive development and suggests a path forward for WME to reach an agreement as well."

CAA and the guild also withdrew legal claims as part of the deal. A WME rep did not comment Tuesday about whether the agency's updated proposal included withdrawing legal claims. On Dec. 18, at a court hearing between WME and the Writers Guild, U.S. District Court Judge André Birotte Jr. encouraged the parties to settle and stated: “Find a path to try to resolve this."