ICM Partners close to signing deal with Writers Guild

Wendy Lee, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

LOS ANGELES -- ICM Partners is close to signing a deal with the Writers Guild of America, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The Century City agency is expected to enter into a franchise agreement with the guild, ending a standoff of more than a year over longstanding agency practices like collecting packaging fees for pulling talent together for projects and ownership of production companies.

The guild maintained that such practices create conflicts of interest between the financial interests of agents and their obligation to represent their writer clients. Agencies have argued they could manage such conflicts.

In April 2019, thousands of writers fired their agents and the WGA instructed its members to not sign with any agencies that did not make individual deals with the union. The WGA negotiated franchise deals with more than 80 agencies and last month, including an agreement with United Talent Agency -- the first of the so-called big four agencies, a group that includes William Morris Endeavor and Creative Artists Agency as well as ICM Partners -- to reach a pact with the union.

If ICM Partners signs a deal, that would trigger a clause in UTA's agreement whereby UTA would end packaging in two years. UTA in its deal also agreed to limit its ownership in Civic Center Media to the current level of 20%. It is expected that ICM Partners' agreement regarding packaging and affiliated production would be similar, according to two people familiar with the matter who declined to be named.

ICM Partners is not expected to sign the guild's code of conduct -- which in addition to barring packaging and affiliated production also requires agencies to share contract information with the guild -- and will enter into a franchise agreement, sources said.

Meanwhile, CAA and WME remain in a dispute and legal battle with WGA.


Last year, the guild sued the agencies alleging the practice of collecting packaging fees was illegal. In April, a judge dismissed many of the claims, including that the agencies took part in an illegal group boycott and unlawful racketeering.

The agencies also have sued the WGA, contending that the union organized an illegal group boycott that violated antitrust laws. (As part of their July deal, UTA and the WGA agreed to drop their lawsuits against each other.) A trial in that case could begin in March 2021.

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