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Endeavor and William Morris tango toward finish line

April 20, 2009 |  5:51 pm

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The mating dance between rival agencies William Morris and Endeavor continues with the William Morris board set to discuss the potential marriage at a board meeting scheduled for tomorrow, and Endeavor's partners expect to follow suit shortly after, according to people close to the situation.

Though the ongoing talks have generated lots of attention and media scrutiny, a merger of the two competing talent shops is hardly Microsoft marrying Apple: Combined, the agencies would have estimated annual revenue of about $300 million.

But by joining forces, William Morris and Endeavor would create a talent juggernaut positioned to challenge Hollywood's top-seeded Creative Artists Agency. The combined entity would also, in theory, have more leverage in negotiating with the television and movie studios.

Driving the merger is a punishing economic climate in which fewer jobs for actors, directors and writers and a contracting market for TV shows mean lower commissions and fees for the agencies that depend upon them for their bread and butter.

AriAlthough talks are progressing and some Hollywood insiders think a deal is all but a fait accompli, there are still myriad unresolved issues that could scuttle or at least further delay a merger. However, with William Morris chief Jim Wiatt and Endeavor partner Ari Emanuel aggressively pushing for the deal, it seems to be more a matter of when rather than if.

How a merged William Morris/Endeavor would be structured is one of the biggest sticking points. Both have upper levels of management -- William Morris has 20 directors and Endeavor has 28 partners stocked with heavy egos and pocketing hefty paychecks. A merger could mean a thinning of the ranks from top to bottom and a bake-off among suits, which would no doubt result in many agents at the two firms looking to jump ship.

-- Joe Flint and Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photo Credits: Wiatt (top right) by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images; Emanuel (lower left) by Eric Charbonneau/WireImage.com 

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