CAA-ICM Merger Delayed Amid DOJ Scrutiny

The September announcement of Creative Artists Agency’s (CAA) acquisition of ICM Partners has been delayed due to a pending US Department of Justice (DOJ) competition law division investigation. The value of the deal was not disclosed in the announcement, but the merger of the two rival agencies could be the industry’s largest since the William Morris Agency (WMA) merged with Endeavor Talent Agency in 2009.

CAA has a super-charged roster with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon (who is married to CAA agent Jim Toth), and rising star Zendaya. CAA’s interest in the merger stems from ICM’s stout book and sports divisions with the National Football League (NFL) and London’s Stellar Group. CAA, already a giant in the industry would potentially have even greater power when negotiating salaries for its stars. In a world where Scarlett Johansson can sue Disney for “more money”, merging these two companies would give CAA even more leverage in negotiations. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG), actors union, released a statement to the NY Times in September. “We will carefully scrutinize this combination of two storied talent agencies to ensure that performers will benefit from, and are not disadvantaged by, the deal.”

It was supposed to be a done deal by the end of 2021 but has now been pushed to mid-2022. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the DOJ investigation may have been set into motion by Hollywood unions like SAG and the Writers Guild of America. However, CAA co-chairman Bryan Lourd said he was “very confident” the deal would go through without issue. The DOJ antitrust division is led by Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter and has been unindated with merger requests since the start of the pandemic. Discovery is merging with WarnerMedia and Amazon has proposed buying MGM to name just a couple.

It is not clear when the investigation will be completed.

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