Just three weeks after shepherding the merger of two top Hollywood talent agencies, William Morris Agency Chairman Jim Wiatt is leaving -- a sign that Endeavor is firmly in control of the combined entity.
Speculation focused Friday on whether Wiatt was pushed out by members of the new William Morris Endeavor Entertainment board. Many people in the entertainment industry had anticipated that he would find himself without a role in the merged agency, but few thought his departure would come so soon.
Wiatt declined to comment; however, a person close to him acknowledged that he was leaving, but not immediately. The person said Wiatt was not forced out.
When the much-talked-about merger was announced April 26, Endeavor partners Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell were to assume day-to-day control of the new agency, sharing chief executive duties with William Morris President Dave Wirtschafter.
Wiatt retained the title of chairman and told those around him that he would take an active role.
But almost as soon as the deal was announced, Hollywood executives began talking about whether he had been upstaged by his aggressive, younger Endeavor partners.
The deal, described as creating a more formidable competitor to the dominant Creative Artists Agency, left wounded feelings among many staffers at William Morris who felt betrayed by Wiatt.
Those tensions intensified earlier this week, when more than 100 people lost their jobs at the 111-year-old talent agency. By comparison, few Endeavor agents have lost their jobs so far as a result of the merger.
Wiatt was advised this week by close confidants that he should gracefully resign, rather than be ejected by a vote of the nine-member board. A source within the agency said the board had taken no action.
It is unclear what Wiatt's next move will be.
Also in question is how the cultures of the more staid William Morris and the scrappier 14-year-old Endeavor will meld. Endeavor head Emanuel, who is the basis for the hyperkinetic Ari Gold character in the HBO series "Entourage" and the brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, will no doubt look to shape the personality of the combined entity.
The deal was officially sanctioned by the Federal Trade Commission last week and is expected to get the blessing of labor commissioners in California and New York.