This reporting appears as one of several scoops featured in this week’s edition of Confider, the media newsletter that pulls back the curtain to reveal what’s really going on inside the world’s most powerful navel-gazing industry. Subscribe here and send your questions, tips, and complaints here.
If you’re CAA, one of the most powerful talent agencies in the world, and Will Smith, one of your biggest A-list clients, lights his career on fire by slapping Chris Rock on live TV while the world watches, what do you do? You can look at history for starters.
WME dumped Mel Gibson as a client in 2010 after the Mad Max star was caught on tape saying the N-word during one of his many tirades. That agency, led by super-agents Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, also dumped clients Brett Ratner and Bryan Singer over sexual-misconduct allegations. CAA ditched Megyn Kelly when the former Fox News anchor defended blackface live on NBC; and UTA cut Bill O’Reilly loose after revelations he paid $32 million to settle one of many sexual-harassment claims against him.
Last week, it was CAA’s overlords Bryan Lourd, Richard Lovett, and Kevin Huvane in the hot seat again as the famed talent and sports agency grappled with what to do about their own slap-happy star client.
An internal debate over whether to drop the Fresh Prince took hold at the same time roughly 100 agents and executives descended upon the chichi Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes for CAA’s first leadership retreat since the plague, Confider has learned.
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Lourd expressed to several attendees at the confab that he believed CAA, in the process of acquiring rival agency ICM (which reps Rock, by the way), should ditch Smith, according to three people who spoke with him. Meanwhile, Lovett, who personally reps Smith, was described as “frazzled” throughout the fallout from the Oscars spat, but wanted to keep Big Willie aboard the CAA roster.
The trio want to be seen as being on the right side of history, especially in light of CAA’s association with Harvey Weinstein, but ultimately they decided to stick with Smith as there is seemingly no doubt—despite his resignation from the Academy—that his status as a bankable movie star will one day return.
A spokesperson for CAA told Confider: “There is no truth to any of it. Simply never happened.”
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