Hollywood talent agency UTA agrees to buy UK’s Curtis Brown

United Talent Agency has agreed to buy London-based Curtis Brown in a deal that would bring about 100 literary and talent agents under the Hollywood-based agency’s roof.

The deal will allow UTA to tap into Curtis Brown’s deep well of literary talent, which includes writers such as The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood and the estates of Ian Fleming, John le Carré, AA Milne and Winston Churchill. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

“This gives us access to some wonderful literary material — they’ve been involved with some of the greatest authors of all time,” Jeremy Zimmer, co-founder and chief executive of UTA, told the Financial Times.

Curtis Brown, founded in 1899 and majority employee-owned, will continue to run independently under its chief executive Jonny Geller, who said the deal will give the agency access to the resources of UTA, the world’s third largest talent agency. No job cuts are expected at Curtis Brown, which has about 240 employees and vies with Independent Talent Group for top billing as the UK’s largest agency.

The deal marks the largest such agreement between a Hollywood agency and a UK agency. The UK has long been thought to punch above its weight in acting and writing talent, though it has often been US agencies that opened up their work to global audiences. 

Curtis Brown and UTA already share representation of actors such as Damian Lewis, Alicia Vikander and Ncuti Gatwa, the latest doctor in Dr Who. Both agencies also represent screenwriters including Georgia Pritchett, who has written for HBO’s Succession, and Tony Roche, whose credits include The Thick of It.

The deal comes as UTA’s larger Hollywood rival, Creative Artists Agency, is in the midst of a longer-than-expected regulatory approval process for its bid to buy ICM, which was agreed in September. The industry leader was created in 2009 when William Morris Agency combined with Endeavor, led by Ari Emanuel. The group went public last year and has a market capitalisation of about $10.5bn.

Streaming video has created an explosion in demand for new content and allowed shows like Korea’s Squid Game or France’s Call My Agent to become global hits. At the same time, it has changed the traditional bonus and profit point systems that top talent has been accustomed to.

Zimmer said the Curtis Brown deal will allow both firms to have greater access to these international opportunities and help talent tap into new ways to earn money. 

“This global connectivity we’ve talked about for so long is now real and is allowing people all over the world to discover content from other regions and be very excited about,” he said. “The value of content from any country to another country is growing significantly.” 

The challenge is to find ways to help talent connect with these larger fanbases and make money from them, he said.

“Artists are seeing a world of possibilities that weren’t as obvious to them a decade ago,” Zimmer said. “The definition of how they connect with their fans and the world’s opportunities is also changing.” 

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