Once upon a time there was a man named William Morris.

In 1898, William came up with a great logo, rented an office in Manhattan and opened the William Morris Agency to manage vaudeville performers. You know, jugglers and shit.

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See what I mean about the logo?

In 1918 William hired his son, William Junior to work for the agency. Twelve years later, William Junior moved to Hollywood to manage movie stars.

In 1949 he bought the Berg-Allenberg Agency and the William Morris Agency became the world’s biggest talent agency.

In 1995 Ari Emanuel formed the Endeavor Talent Agency

Ari Emanuel was already well-known in Hollywood as a tenacious agent, a fierce boardroom bargainer whose distinctive mannerisms were irresistible imitation fodder for his actor clients.

If you’ve ever seen Jeremy Pivin playing Ari Gold on Entourage, you’ve seen an Ari Emanuel imitation.

Now I’ve never met Ari in person, but I have met his brother Rahm.

According to The New Yorker, Ari and Rahm are “consummate schmoozers” who “balance their ingratiating manners with ferocious tempers.”

Rahm Emanuel is one of the three scariest people I’ve ever been in a room with—right up there with Chris Barnes of Cannibal Corpse and an ex-boss of mine who, according to rumor, once threw a man through the window of the Congress Avenue Cafe.

Rahm was Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff and chief enforcer. He later became Mayor of Chicago.

So I have to presume that Ari Emanuel is a lot scarier than Ari Gold.

A whole lot.

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Not Ari Emanuel.

Emanuel takes over William Morris

By 2009, Endeavor was, according to Deadline, “a ‘client-rich’ mid-size agency with big ambitions” that “set its sights on the much bigger, ‘cash rich’ William Morris Agency.”

The William Morris Agency was valued at twice what Endeavor was, but Ari Emanuel and company took advantage of internal divisions at WME and “totally blindsided” WME leadership who “truly believed that they would be running the combined company.”

Ari was credited with “brilliant strategic maneuvering to get the WMA leadership to turn on each other one by one.” At the end of the corporate maneuvering, Ari laid off over 100 WME agents while keeping the Endeavor team mostly together.

Then WME Board Member John Ferriter wrote in 2019 that, “wow, their ‘bad guys’ are better at being ‘bad’ than our ‘bad guys.’ A lot better at it.” Ferriter was concerned that Ari Emanuel and company’s plans to become a studio as well as a talent agency would violate the California Talent Agency Act. His questions drew laughter from the Endeavor team.

The boardroom defenestrations gave Ari Emanuel WME’s $325 in annual revenue to finance his next moves. Well, that and over $900 million he raised from private equity firm Silver Lake and Japan’s Softbank.

The next huge move came in 2013 when Ari Emanuel came up with $2.4 billion to buy IMG, a powerhouse in sports and live events.

In 2016, Endeavor bought the UFC for $4 billion

By 2021 he had built Endeavor into what The LA Times called “a 7,500-person media, sports and entertainment juggernaut” and pulled off an IPO that reportedly infuriated 300 top players inside the company who found out at the last minute that their stock options were worthless:

“The shocking news came on a conference call with company president Mark Shapiro, who told the agents and executives that their Endeavor options were severely “underwater,” according to a source with direct knowledge of the call.

“According to sources, Shapiro left out the fact that employees’ options had been diluted well below the company’s stock price not only because of the pandemic that hammered Endeavor’s business, but also a massive trove of stock awards that had been granted to Emanuel.”

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About the author
Nate Wilcox
Nate Wilcox

Nate Wilcox is the founding editor of BloodyElbow.com. As such he has hired every editor and writer to work for the site. Wilcox’s writing for BE is known for its emphasis on MMA history, the evolution of fighting techniques and strong opinions. Wilcox developed the SBN MMA consensus rankings which were featured in USA Today from 2009 to 2011. Before founding BE, Wilcox was a political operative working for such figures as Senators John Kerry and Mark Warner and an early political blogger. He is the co-author of Netroots Rising, a history of the political blogosphere from 2003 to 2007. Wilcox also hosts the Let It Roll podcast on music history for the Pantheon Podcast Network.

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