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April 28, 2009 6:25 PM

William Morris and Endeavor Decide to Costar

Posted by Drew Combs

If the merger of Hollywood talent agencies William Morris and Endeavor were a movie pitch, it could be described as a May-December romance that defied all odds.

The two agencies announced Monday that they would combine, creating William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. Endeavor, in the role of young suitor, is a 14-year-old upstart run by Ariel Emanuel, well known for being the brother of the White House chief of staff and the inspiration for the Ari Gold character on HBO's Entourage. The older paramour in this deal, William Morris was founded in New York in 1898 and traces its roots back to the vaudeville acts of the period. According to industry observers, the combination provides both firms with a stronger platform to negotiate with studios and challenge the industry's top talent powerbroker, Creative Artists Agency.

Among the odds faced by the deal were the "super enormous egos"--as one lawyer involved in the deal puts it--of the parties involved. At times, the task of placating those egos fell to a rather long list of lawyers.

William Morris was represented by a group of lawyers at Munger, Tolles & Olson led by J. Martin Willhite, a partner in the firm's corporate department. The Munger Tolles team also included corporate partner Brett Rodda and tax partner Stephen Rose. Associates Katharine Hall, Daniel Elizondo and Patrick Anderson assisted with the deal.

William Morris was also advised by Craig Jacobson and Thomas Hansen, partners at the Beverly Hills-based entertainment boutique Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren & Richman. According to one lawyer involved in the deal, Jacobson and Hansen did not focus on the transactional heavy lifting, but were key to the merger because they had relationships with both parties. "Anytime there was a hard conversation to be had, they started it," says this lawyer.

Endeavor was represented by a team at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison that included corporate department chair Robert Schumer, corporate partner Paul Ginsberg, tax partner Jeffrey Samuels and corporate associate Justin Hamill.

William Morris's board of directors retained Los Angeles-based Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partners David Hernand, Scott Edelman, and Stephen Tolles late Thursday to serve as their independent counsel. Associates Diana Trembly and Joelle Khoury assisted the Gibson Dunn partners in the deal.

Also on Thursday, Latham & Watkins lawyers, including Los Angeles-based partner Scott Hodgkins, were brought in to handle personal indemnification issues involving three members of the William Morris board of directors.

The merger, which must be cleared by state and federal regulators, will likely be completed in the second quarter.

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Re: Harold and Maude remake-----

Q: How many lawyers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: How many can you afford?

Q: How many agents does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: I'll get back to you.

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