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Morris Targets Miami's Talent

January 16, 2003|Claudia Eller | Times Staff Writer

Hollywood's biggest talent agency is on the prowl for more comision.

The Beverly Hills-based William Morris Agency is opening a Miami Beach office in an effort to cash in on the fast-growing Latino entertainment market.

Morris will be the first major Hollywood agency with a branch in what has become known as the "gateway to the Spanish-speaking world." The new Miami operation will focus on Spanish-language and bilingual clients working in music, film, television, publishing and commercials, the agency said.

"Miami has an incredibly rich creative community and this market has grown tremendously," said Raul Mateu, a 12-year Morris veteran who has moved from New York to head the office.

Southern Florida has seen a sharp rise in its Latino media business since the mid-1990s. "Over the past five years it's gone from zero to huge," said Jeff Peel, film commissioner for the Miami-Dade Mayor's Office of Film and Entertainment.

Peel estimates that Latino media concerns generate more than $2 billion in revenue yearly in the Miami area.

Two of the nation's biggest Spanish-language TV broadcasters -- Los Angeles-based Univision Communications Inc. and NBC-owned Telemundo -- run major operations in Miami. The region hosts 40 additional Latin American cable networks and U.S.-based Latin divisions of multinational entertainment giants, including Viacom Inc.'s MTV Latino and AOL Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. and HBO Latin units.

Latin divisions of all the major record companies, including Sony and Universal, also are based in Miami.

Morris, which represents recording artists such as Enrique Iglesias and Luis Miguel, already has a substantial presence in the Latin music business. With a Miami branch, however, the agency hopes to duplicate the success of its last major foray into new territory -- the Nashville country music-oriented office it opened in 1973.

"That's been wildly successful," William Morris President Jim Wiatt said.

Initially, Mateu will be joined by two colleagues from Morris' New York office. The branch will open in April.

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