UTA’s Longtime Chairman Steps Aside as Two Independent Directors Are Added
Paul Wachter, the CEO of Main Street Advisors, will be the new board chair at UTA, with Ceci Kurzman also joining the board. Exiting chair Jim Berkus remains "very active" at UTA, a source says.
United Talent Agency is making significant changes to its board of directors.
The company, led by CEO Jeremy Zimmer, is adding two new independent directors, expanding the board beyond its own executives and investors for the first time.
The new directors are Paul Wachter, the founder and CEO of investment firm Main Street Advisors, and Ceci Kurzman, the founder of Nexus Management Group. Wachter will also become chairman of the board for UTA.
With Wachter becoming chairman, UTA co-founder Jim Berkus will step aside from that role, which he has held for the last 25 years, a source close to the company confirms to The Hollywood Reporter. The source added that while Berkus will no longer be on UTA’s board, he remains “very active” at UTA. Berkus co-founded UTA in 1991 with Zimmer and Peter Benedek, and became sole chairman of the firm in 1997, THR reported that year.
The changes to the board come as UTA has spent the last few years transforming its business via expansions and acquisitions. Last summer, the agency secured an investment from EQT Partners and said at the time that it would use the cash to pursue an expansion and growth strategy. EQT is now UTA’s largest minority investor.
And while its agency competitors CAA and Endeavor have pursued megadeals (with CAA acquiring ICM, and Endeavor pushing further into live sports via its acquisition of the rest of UFC and a betting data firm), UTA has made a number of smaller, more targeted acquisitions.
The company acquired the U.K. literary and talent agency Curtis Brown Group last year, and last month acquired the literary agency Fletcher & Company in a push to grow its publishing business. The company also bolstered its UTA IQ data business by buying analytics firm MediaHound, and perhaps most notably made a big expansion into marketing and consulting via the $125 million acquisition of Michael Kassan’s strategic advisory firm MediaLink.
The additions of Wachter and Kurzman are sure to raise questions about UTA’s future, as they will be the first independent directors on the company’s board. UTA has had investors on the board, but never independent directors, who are often tapped to provide more neutral guidance, particularly as a company pursues further growth.
In a statement, Zimmer said that the company and EQT “together recognized the value of adding experienced outside voices to the board to help us continue to pursue our goals.”
“The addition of Paul and Ceci, with their web of expertise in entertainment and technology, finance and corporate governance, is another powerful signal about the trajectory of our company and the work we are doing on behalf of our clients,” he added. “Both Paul and Ceci are passionate about artists and culture and recognize the importance of how UTA can continue to lead into the future.”
“I’ve watched Jeremy and UTA build one of the most dynamic businesses in entertainment, sports and media. These industries are going through a generational transformation, and UTA is uniquely positioned to be one of the companies at the center of it,” added Wachter in a statement. “I’m very honored to join as board chairman and thrilled to be a part of how UTA continues to innovate for their clients and investors.”
“Culture, entertainment and sports are universal throughout the world, creating new forms of disruption and opportunity every day. UTA touches every corner of these ecosystems and has the growing reach and capabilities to continue to drive success for the extraordinary artists, athletes and clients they represent,” Kurzman added. “I’m excited to work with the rest of the UTA board to continue to innovate and pursue their vision.”
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.