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Casey Wasserman in Talks to Buy Paradigm Agency Music Assets

Cynthia Littleton and Shirley Halperin

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UPDATED: Casey Wasserman, the sports and entertainment entrepreneur who is the grandson of legendary talent agency mogul Lew Wasserman, is in talks to acquire the music assets of Paradigm agency, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus lockdown.

Sources said the talks have been on-again, off-again and there’s a good chance that a deal may never come to fruition. The discussions had not moved to the term-sheet phase as of Wednesday evening. Wasserman, chairman and CEO of Wasserman, is said to have been courted by by Tom Gores, the Platinum Equity CEO who is the brother of Paradigm founder and CEO Sam Gores.

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Paradigm’s operations have been throttled by the sudden shutdown of the live music and event business. The agency has bulked up with a number of acquisition of music booking agencies and artist management boutiques in recent years, leaving it with substantial debt to service. The abrupt end of the touring business left the company in a financial pinch that forced the layoffs of more than 100 staffers and pay cuts for other employees in March.

An industry source pegged the value of Paradigm’s collected music operations at $150 million-$200 million. Last summer, Paradigm went far down the road with UTA in negotiations for an outright sale of the agency for what sources said was a little more than $300 million in cash.

A representative for Paradigm could not immediately be reached for comment. A rep for Wasserman declined to comment. News of the talks was first reported by Hits Daily Double.

The Wasserman firm runs a wide range of businesses focused on marketing and media rights. Casey Wasserman was a big force behind Los Angeles’ bid to bring the summer Olympic games back to the City of Angels in 2028. He was previously the owner of the Los Angeles Avengers arena football team.

Paradigm, like other Hollywood talent agencies, has felt the immediate strain of the coronavirus lockdown putting a chill on so much of the entertainment business. Sam Gores decision to dramatically cut costs sparked a wrongful termination lawsuit from longtime Paradigm TV honcho Debbee Klein and much speculation that the agency will have to seek a partner such as Wasserman.

Wasserman’s interest in a traditional Hollywood agency focused on music is evocative of his lineage. Lew Wasserman, who rose to become an innovative studio mogul with his purchase of Universal Pictures, first made his name booking bands for legendary Music Corp. of America founder Jules Stein.

Paradigm occupied the distinctive former MCA office complex in Beverly Hills from 2003 to 2018.

Late on Wednesday, May 20, Variety obtained a note Sam Gores sent to staff stating that “there is no agreement to sell Paradigm, nor is any sale imminent” and that the agency “made good progress in stabilizing and strengthening” its business. Read the memo in its entirety below.

Dear Colleagues,

By now most of you have seen stories in the media that Casey Wasserman is in talks to purchase Paradigm, and that the deal is nearly done. Let me be clear: these stories are not accurate. There is no agreement to sell Paradigm, nor is any sale imminent.

The agents at Paradigm and the talent they represent have built this agency into an industry leader. Despite the difficult environment that nearly every company in the entertainment industry has faced and is facing due to the coronavirus, we have made good progress in stabilizing and strengthening our agency. This progress is in no small part due to the hard work and dedication of our team. I want you to know how much I appreciate your efforts.

We are always looking for ways to further build and grow our company. This is nothing new. What is new, in my view, is that this environment has created unique opportunities, and we are — as you might expect — looking at a number of them.

Don’t let rumors or speculative reporting upset or distract you. We are the best at what we do because we remain focused on our clients. And this is how we will continue to thrive and succeed.

If there is something to report, be assured you will hear it from us. In the meantime, stay safe, healthy, and focused.

Sam

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