A little more than a year ago, the leadership of Brillstein Entertainment Partners — a leading Hollywood firm founded in 1969 by talent broker Bernie Brillstine, who has managed names like Lorne Michaels, Garry Shandling, Brad Pitt, Nicolas Cage, and Mike Myers — began thinking about… Strategies. Options for their business, including selling.
The management and production company has been led by co-CEOs Cynthia Pitt and John Liebman since 2005, when the duo bought out CEO Brad Gray’s stake and Brillstein-Gray dropped the last name from the shingle. (It’s worth noting that the late Gray, who later became a Paramount Pictures executive, handled the backend of the HBO series.) The sopranowhich Brillstein produced with him.)
Liebman, a New York entertainment lawyer who joined Brillstein in 1998, says informal talks were held in 2022 with Casey Wasserman, whose namesake firm — which includes a sports talent agent and booking agency — was looking for acquisitions, including So buy Paradigm’s live music. to divide. As Wasserman recalls Hollywood ReporterWhen Brillstein’s leadership approached, they weren’t looking to do a private equity deal “so they could take money off the table, it was about seeing if there was a strategic justification for doing something.”
Those talks led to an agreement under which Wasserman terminated the Brilstine acquisition, the companies said Monday. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed but Brillstein will retain operating offices in Beverly Hills and New York and its 80 employees (including more than 30 managers) are expected to stay on amid the ownership change.
In addition to the hundreds of management clients brought into the fold (including Brad Pitt, Florence Pugh, Tiffany Haddish, Adam Sandler, Rami Malek, Seth Meyers, John Ridley and more), the purchase brings Wasserman deeper into the production space. The Brillstein Creative Partners in-house unit, led by Allie Goss, supports projects in development such as the spy series Simon Risk On Netflix and Ewan McGregor starring Lodi On Amazon. The company also signed a multi-year contract with Paramount TV to develop scripted series in April.
“We are excited about the opportunity to work in production,” says Wasserman. “This is important to our business and our customers on a current basis and we believe it will continue to be more strategic and more important.” A list of shows produced for Brillstein over the years is included Politically incorrect And Real Time with Bill Maher, Just threw me, The Larry Sanders Show And The Steve Harvey Show.
For Lipman, the decision to sell the company was necessary given the complex entertainment landscape now, a far cry from when Brillstein was founded, when there were only three television networks and fewer clients to manage. “We made the decision to be part of a larger platform that had access to resources that could help us play a lot of the instruments in the orchestra,” says CEO Brillstein. “Being able to meet the needs of customers across different industries will be much easier within a company like Wasserman.”
Notably, Brillstein partners — including Mark Gurvitz, Sandy Wernick, George Freeman, Missy Malkin, David McIlvan, Alex Murray, Andrea Pitt, and Tim Sarks — are moving into Wasserman’s leadership team and taking clients with them. Lipman said Wasserman will help unlock resources to build out Brillstein’s digital and gaming talent representation divisions, expand its brand endorsement portfolio and help its clients start their own businesses (for example, a star launching a lifestyle brand).
“We clearly have the capacity, opportunity and balance sheet to support all of its initiatives,” adds Wasserman.
For Wasserman — who also serves as president of LA28, which helped organize the plan for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles — the move takes his company beyond its footprint in sports and music talent agencies and brings in a roster of movie and TV stars as management clients. “We have great representation in music and sports,” Wasserman says. “The lines are quickly blurring, as we all know, between what were once isolated verticals and evolving into a place where talent has the opportunity to take advantage of opportunities in all kinds of specializations.”
In recent years, the Hollywood management space has become more competitive between new entrants like Range Media Partners (2020 organization) and production management competitors like Anonymous Content, Artists First, and Entertainment 360. Meanwhile, the big three talent agencies — WME, CAA, and UTA — have all expanded by Investments fueled by private equity and have created large lists of sports and music clients. (But affiliate production — thanks to a long standoff between talent agencies and the Writers Guild of America that began in 2019 — is mostly off the table for the agencies, as the three companies agreed to divest from their production labels to a 20 percent stake.) Management companies like Brillstein is not subject to these agreements.)
Since launching his company in 2002, Wasserman, who is based in Westwood, has created several creative brand marketing companies, including the advertising agency Laundry Service, and now has just under 1,900 employees. In 2023 alone, the company acquired UK-based sports marketing agency CSM Sport & Entertainment, added NFL-focused Caric Sports Management and acquired Toronto-based lifestyle creative agency Trevor//Peter, among other deals for boutique companies .
Last year, two of Wasserman’s investors, Redbird Capital and Madrone Capital Partners, acquired ownership stakes in sports teams (the Milan Football Club and the NFL’s Denver Broncos). As such, they were unable to own a stake in the sports talent agency and their shares were bought out, with Providence Equity Partners funding a new investment in Wasserman last November to support its growth plans.
When asked if Wasserman had any ambitions to take his company public, the mogul shrugged off a reference to golden-age Hollywood studio titan Lew Wasserman: “In the words of my grandfather, I’m bad at predicting the future, and even worse at making excuses.” “
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