CAA behind closed doors: trust, loyalty, betrayal, creative leadership and change management


I’ve just read, and strongly recommend, a massive book about CAA – the upstart agency turned powerhouse that had such a disruptive effect on the entertainment business through the 80s and 90s and survives today to represent many of the most important and influential talents and teams in the sports and entertainment world. They are rightly proud of what they have done and can do – do please check out their website to see what they have to say about themselves. Go on – it’s worth a visit – you might pick up some ideas for your own site!

James Andrew Miller’s book: Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency is an oral history told by all the major protagonists. Yes, they are all in there spinning their versions. Mike and Bill and Ron and Rick. Bryan (off camera, but central nonetheless) and Kevin and Doc and Richard.  And their clients too: Tom and Marty, Leo and Eva and Meryl and Nicole and Sylvester and Robert and Donald and Steven and LeBron and Dwayne and Les and  on and on and on. Competitors and alums too – including of course Ari and Patrick of WME.

There were over 500 interviews. In depth? You have no idea. There are moments when you go – oh this book is just a puff piece. Then you read the other guy’s POV. Take your pick of where the truth lies. Everyone spins to their own advantage. Credit is taken – a lot – and sometimes even given. Personalities clash. Years of secrecy are breached. The agents, the actors, the producers, the haters, the fanboys. Managers brag and staffers gripe. Golden handcuffs are deployed. Drugs are involved. Gambling debts are incurred. Scores are settled. And naturally Joe Eszterhas has something to add.

Follow the sad, unfolding addiction tragedy of the young, brilliant and much-loved Jay Moloney.

Read what happened when Michael Ovitz voided the $10 million check made out to him by  Coca Cola, sending it back to Peter Sealy with a post it note saying, “Pete. Let’s discuss this.”

Watch the CAA corporate culture change before your eyes as the shop grew in size and power. Did the other agencies ape it? Where would you want to work? Which of these agents would you want representing you? How many working hours could you squeeze into a week? It’s exhausting and fascinating. It’s insight into the people who were ultimately responsible for pretty much everything in Hollywood and on TV during the glory years. And then music and then sports.

There are highlights and major players on each page of this book.  Anyone interested in the deepest darkest working of the entertainment and sports businesses should read it. It’s how movies get made. It’s what happens in the meetings, down the hall and over dinner. And it’s a how-to/how-not-to on change management and what happens when companies grow and evolve. The good the bad and the ugly.

Read these juicy excerpts as printed in Variety. Then read the whole thing. You won’t be sorry you did.