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William Morris loses a Mr. Big

May 17, 2009 |  9:19 pm
Fallout from the William Morris Agency-Endeavor merger continues. 

William Morris Agency's worldwide head of scripted television, Aaron Kaplan, over the weekend finalized his own deal to bolt from the agency as soon as it merges with its onetime rival, according to people familiar with the move. Or, as the Hollywood trade paper Variety would say: Kaplan is ankling his long-time percentary. He plans to open his own talent management and entertainment production company, these people said.

The defection had been expected, and was first reported on the blog that never sleeps or weeps -- www.DeadlineHollywoodDaily.com.

Kaplan, who started in the William Morris mail room in 1991, was one of the firm's most aggressive agents and he hustled his way to the top of the firm's television division. Several years ago, Kaplan prevailed in a "Survivor"-like power struggle over who would claim the prize as the top television agent in charge of comedies and dramas. 

He also was a key lieutenant of William Morris Chief Jim Wiatt, and for a reason: Kaplan packaged such popular shows as "Lost" and "The Office." But it was clear that Kaplan would not be running the TV division for the combined William Morris Endeavor agency. And at 40, it appears to be a good time for him to begin work starring in his own sequel. 

Kaplan is the second top William Morris agent to plan his exit. Steve Rabineau will be moving to United Talent Agency. On the other side of the aisle, Endeavor got the boot from one of its founders, Tom Strickler, who resigned the day the merger was announced. 

Now Hollywood insiders will be watching to see if some of Kaplan's top clients, including Darren Star ("Sex and the City"), Carlton Cuse ("Lost") or Barry Sonnenfeld ("Pushing Daisies") will stay at combined William Morris Endeavor agency or leave. Kaplan's soon-to-be-announced shingle will be represented by -- you guessed it: William Morris Endeavor. 

The other William Morris TV king-maker, Mark Itkin, who built the company's unscripted TV division into a powerhouse is expected to stay on. 

-- Meg James  
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