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How Bryan Lourd grew to become one of the crucial highly effective folks in Hollywood

Bryan Lourd speaks onstage throughout the Lincoln Middle American Songbook Gala honoring Bonnie Hammer at Broadway Theatre on January 29, 2020 in New York Metropolis.

Slaven Vlasic | Getty Photographs Leisure | Getty Photographs

After stunning the company world final 12 months with the information Discovery Communications would merge with WarnerMedia, incoming Warner Bros. Discovery Chief Government David Zaslav had a mission: be taught as a lot about Hollywood as doable and select the proper leaders to assist him run the mixed firm.

Zaslav begun a year-long quest to tell his determination making. He reached out to dozens of Hollywood’s elite, together with ex-Disney CEO Bob Iger, former WarnerMedia CEO Bob Daley, former chairman of Walt Disney Studios Alan Horn, Endeavor Group Holdings CEO Ari Emanuel, and Inventive Artists Company co-chairman Bryan Lourd.

Lourd, 61, is not a family identify, however he wields a surprising quantity of affect in Hollywood. He has helped run CAA, one of many two largest world expertise companies, since 1995. Lourd’s Hollywood purchasers aren’t simply A-listers, they’re A+-listers: Brad Pitt. George Clooney. Scarlett Johansson. Octavia Spencer. Alejandro González Iñárritu. Lorne Michaels. The listing goes on and on.

Whereas Zaslav solicited Lourd’s recommendation about whom to rent for Warner Bros. Discovery, he floated an concept by him: Would Lourd take into account giving up his job at CAA to come back run the famed Warner Bros. studio?

The Lourd of Hollywood

Superagent Bryan Lourd is a pivotal dealmaker and consigliere to CEOs in a time of nice upheaval for Hollywood.

The largest executives in Hollywood take pleasure in working with Lourd, at the same time as he wins profitable offers for his star-studded listing of purchasers, together with George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

Lourd has performed main roles in current offers involving Apple, which has expanded into the leisure enterprise, and Disney, which has turn into a significant participant in streaming.

“He’ll inform you to go to Hell so properly that you’re going to ask for instructions,” mentioned one studio govt.

Brokers have made related profession strikes earlier than. In 1995, Common precursor MCA employed CAA co-founder Ron Meyer to run its operations. Weeks later, Disney employed one other CAA co-founder, Michael Ovitz, to be the corporate’s president after which CEO-Michael Eisner’s No. 2.

Sarcastically, these hires, together with third co-founder Invoice Haber leaving in the identical six-week interval to run the Save the Kids Federation, have been what catapulted Lourd into working CAA, a part of a gaggle of so-called Younger Turks who took over in 1995.

Lourd heard Zaslav’s pitch however by no means significantly thought of leaving CAA, in response to folks aware of the matter who requested to not be named as a result of the discussions have been personal. On the time, Zaslav was contemplating Michael DeLuca, who not too long ago departed MGM as its movement image chairman when the corporate offered to Amazon, to run Warner’s DC Comics movie and TV division. Lourd finally beneficial Zaslav rent DeLuca and fellow MGM govt Pam Abdy to run the Warner Bros. studio.

In June, Zaslav listened. He employed DeLuca and Abdy as co-chairs and CEOs of Warner Bros Photos Group. The DC job stays unfilled.

It is not laborious to grasp why Lourd selected to maintain his job.

A relentless in a time of upheaval

The leisure trade is in an “age of nice nervousness,” Iger mentioned earlier this month, “as a result of that is an period of nice transformation.” The largest world media corporations are consolidating and remodeling their companies to revolve round streaming video. Know-how giants Apple and Amazon have turn into lively, deep-pocketed rivals. A brand new era has taken over: The CEOs of Disney, NBCUniversal, WarnerMedia and CBS have all turned over prior to now 4 years.

On high of that, traders have soured on streaming video chief Netflix, driving shares down about 60% this 12 months. That is giving media leaders much more agita as an existential query hangs over the trade: Have the perfect days in media and leisure handed us by?

That has triggered company leaders to lean on Lourd greater than ever earlier than, in response to greater than a dozen media executives interviewed by CNBC. Zaslav calls him “probably the final true Hollywood star.” An old school expertise agent who loves discussing previous films and would not thoughts stating the failings in his personal purchasers’ work, Lourd has turn into arguably essentially the most highly effective particular person in Hollywood. He is a “clever consigliere,” within the phrases of ex-HBO chief Richard Plepler, to just about each main firm within the leisure trade.

Whether or not it is advising Zaslav on whom to rent at Warner Bros., or convincing Apple TV+ to outspend everybody on his purchasers’ future tasks, or advising corporations on potential board members, Lourd has turn into a man-behind-the-curtain determine who stands out not just for his energy but in addition for his lack of public persona.

“He is one of the crucial highly effective folks within the historical past of Hollywood,” mentioned Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos. “However you’d by no means understand him to be highly effective.”

Lourd declined to take part on this story.

This is not ‘Entourage’

“Reliable,” “constant,” “supportive,” “very good” and “virtually quiet” aren’t phrases sometimes related to Hollywood illustration — an trade many affiliate with Plepler’s previous HBO present “Entourage.” That sequence options superagent character Ari Gold, who’s performed by actor Jeremy Piven and loosely based mostly on the brash, in-your-face Emanuel.

However these phrases of endearment are how 5 high showbiz executives – Iger, Paramount Photos head Brian Robbins, Starz CEO Jeff Hirsch, NBCUniversal chief Jeff Shell and Zaslav, respectively – describe Lourd.

“He is distinctive,” mentioned Iger. “He is a statesman in an trade outlined by superagents who rose to positions of energy by being intimidating. He is sincere. He’ll say issues like, ‘Yeah, that would have been higher.’ He brings folks collectively and takes positions that individuals impress round.”

Ari Emanuel speaks onstage throughout the 2017 LACMA Artwork + Movie Gala Honoring Mark Bradford and George Lucas offered by Gucci at LACMA on November 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. 

Stefanie Keenan | Getty Photographs Leisure | Getty Photographs

Whereas Emanuel has turn into well-known for brief conversations and one-word e-mail responses, one govt after one other famous Lourd at all times appears to have time for longer discussions about technique, problem-solving and checking in on private lives.

“Bryan by no means feels rushed,” mentioned Apple TV+ co-head Zack Van Amburg. “He is able to have as lengthy of a dialog because it takes. That is an excellent talent, as mundane as which will appear.”

Emanuel’s job additionally not mirrors Lourd’s. Emanuel has turn into a public firm CEO, rising Endeavor first with quite a few company acquisitions after which shopping for fashionable skilled mixed-martial arts league UFC. The purchases have turned Endeavor into an $10 billion firm.

Lourd’s persona is “sensible counter positioning” to Emanuel, mentioned Sarandos. Lourd and his co-chairmen have saved CAA personal, not too long ago doubling down on the enterprise with an acquisition of expertise company ICM.

“I do not suppose it is by chance,” mentioned Sarandos. “It is two very completely different kinds at play.”

Emanuel declined to remark for this story.

Born on the Bayou

Lourd has been a mainstay in Hollywood for many years regardless of rising up in New Iberia, Louisiana (inhabitants 28,143), somewhat greater than a two-hour drive west from New Orleans.

After graduating from the College of Southern California as a double main in worldwide relations and journalism, Lourd started considering of changing into an agent after studying a New Yorker journal article on the Hollywood illustration trade, in response to a CAA spokesperson.

Lourd joined William Morris Company in 1983, actually working his method up from the mailroom to agent. He left William Morris to hitch CAA in 1988. By the point he was serving to to run CAA in 1995, Lourd was already representing Woody Harrelson, Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, amongst others.

Lourd’s obsession with Hollywood bled into his private life. He dated actress Carrie Fisher from 1991 to 1994. The 2 had a daughter, Billie, who can be an actress. Lourd later married longtime boyfriend Bruce Bozzi, who labored as govt vice chairman of the Palm Restaurant Group for many years, together with working its L.A. hotspot for leisure trade stars and moguls. Lourd shares a second daughter, Ava, with Bozzi. She was born in 2007.

Certain, he is good, however he is nonetheless an agent

Lourd is the quintessential behind-the-scenes maestro, mentioned Zaslav, with aspirations that reach past Hollywood.

Lourd not too long ago held a cocktail party at his residence for Vice President Kamala Harris, after strongly advocating on her behalf behind the scenes to be Joe Biden’s working mate, in response to folks aware of the matter. He is on quite a few charitable boards, together with New York’s Lincoln Middle for the Performing Arts, and two foundations developed by his purchasers — the Clooney Basis for Justice and Sean Penn’s J/P Haitian Reduction Group.

When Plepler determined he would go away HBO in early 2019, Lourd was one among a really small handful of individuals with which he shared his determination weeks earlier than he made it public or informed his then-boss, AT&T CEO John Stankey.

“He is an ally you may belief in a world that may be purely transactional,” Plepler mentioned.

Nonetheless, regardless of his appeal, Lourd is an agent. His main function is to extract cash for his purchasers. That is not fully misplaced on Zaslav.

David Zaslav, President and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery talks to the media as he arrives on the Solar Valley Resort for the Allen & Firm Solar Valley Convention on July 05, 2022 in Solar Valley, Idaho.

Kevin Dietsch | Getty Photographs

“He is each charming and sensitively considerate, however on the similar time, he could be a actual killer shark,” mentioned Zaslav. “However not like a shark, the place you are feeling the tooth, you dangle up the cellphone feeling good, earlier than per week or two later, once you understand you have spent much more than you thought you have been going to spend. However one way or the other, you do not really feel dangerous about it, and you’re feeling he’ll make it as much as you on the subsequent one.”

Or, as Lionsgate Vice Chairman Michael Burns mentioned: “He’ll inform you to go to Hell so properly that you’re going to ask for instructions.”

Not-so-mysterious methods

Lourd’s arms are on almost each a part of the enterprise of leisure. That is a part of why Zaslav thought of him to guide the Warner Bros. studio.

A normal agent has an inventory of purchasers and works to get these folks as a lot cash as doable. However Lourd’s purchasers are such bankable stars that it is equally essential for Hollywood executives to be pleasant with him as it’s useful for Lourd and CAA. Of all of the folks CNBC spoke with for this story, not one had a single important factor to say about Lourd, apart from blaming him for ballooning expertise prices. It is a testomony to his pure persona – a number of executives weren’t as form about Emanuel – however it could additionally converse to Lourd’s energy.

Whereas it appears random to outsiders how or why sure movies or TV sequence find yourself on explicit streaming providers, it begins to make extra sense when considered by means of the lens of Lourd.

  • Step 1: CEOs ask him for recommendation on whom to rent due to his mixture of trustworthiness and information of the trade.
  • Step 2: These executives, lots of whom can not less than partially thank Lourd for his or her jobs and excessive salaries, come to him to workers tasks.
  • Step 3: Lourd will get high greenback for his purchasers by means of offers signed by those self same executives.
  • Step 4: These tasks ship billions in income for executives.*

Step 4 comes with an asterisk, as a result of solely a few of Lourd’s tasks ship. Not each film is successful, even with Lourd’s roster of stars. However his affect is just rising because the variety of surefire stars dwindle.

This 12 months, Lourd satisfied Apple TV+ to pay greater than $200 million for a Method 1-themed film starring Brad Pitt that did not have a script. Lourd’s asking worth was so outrageous to Warner Bros. Discovery that some executives scoffed on the pitch, privately calling it frothy and “bells and whistles” with no certainty it could possibly be a tentpole franchise, in response to folks aware of the matter.

Apple TV+’s Van Amburg and co-head Jamie Erlicht have been additionally not sure of Lourd’s pitch, however they knew the film can be written and made by the staff that did “Prime Gun: Maverick” — director Joseph Kosinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and screenwriter Ehren Kruger. The one drawback was “Prime Gun: Maverick” had but to hit theaters on the time of the talks.

Tom Cruise in “Prime Gun: Maverick”

Supply: Paramount

So the Apple staff obtained permission to display screen the movie early. After watching it, they walked away assured. “Prime Gun: Maverick” grew to become one of many highest grossing field workplace films of all time, surpassing $1 billion globally. The Apple deal additionally contains unprecedented income sharing for key expertise, in response to an individual aware of the matter. Lourd crafted a contract permitting Pitt, Bruckheimer and different CAA purchasers to take part in quite a lot of future income streams which will set a brand new commonplace for a way main expertise is paid for streaming films, the particular person mentioned.

Apple TV+ will probably be counting on Lourd and his purchasers to ship on a number of different big-budget tasks, together with a yet-to-be-titled thriller starring Pitt and Clooney, and “Challenge Artemis,” a interval romantic comedy starring CAA purchasers Channing Tatum and Johansson, which value Apple a reported $100 million.

The trade’s altering dynamics, and the right way to pay film stars as extra viewing shifts away from the field workplace and towards streaming, could make negotiating with Lourd difficult even because it seems like a partnership, Van Amburg mentioned.

“Bryan enjoys the function of being the final word diplomat,” Van Amburg mentioned. “However I do not suppose we now have underpaid for something we have ever finished with him.”

Standing up for ScarJo

Lourd flexed his muscle groups final 12 months in a transfer that caught trade executives off guard as a result of it put him in a uncommon public adversarial function to a significant Hollywood govt.

Johansson sued Disney for concurrently releasing “Black Widow” on Disney+ on the similar time it was launched in theaters. She claimed her wage was based mostly on an unique theatrical launch for the movie.

Disney shot again on the lawsuit with a public assertion, outing how a lot Johansson had already made on the film ($20 million) and blaming her for being callous to trade adjustments round Covid-19.

Lourd felt Disney’s assertion was each misogynistic and offensive not solely to Johansson however to all of his purchasers, in response to folks aware of the matter. That prompted him to fireplace again a stern response at Disney and its comparatively new CEO, Bob Chapek, who had taken over for Iger the earlier 12 months.

“Disney’s direct assault on her character and all else they implied is beneath the corporate that many people within the inventive neighborhood have labored with efficiently for many years,” Lourd mentioned in a press release on the time. They’ve shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the worldwide COVID pandemic, in an try and make her look like somebody they and I do know she is not.”

Disney finally settled the Johansson swimsuit, giving Johansson greater than $40 million, in response to Deadline. Chapek mentioned he and Lourd have put the incident behind them and proceed to have a “working dialogue” that goes effectively past particular offers.

“[We talk] concerning the trade at giant and the way it’s all evolving,” mentioned Chapek. “It is a relationship I worth. Our trade is fortunate to have him.”

That is the best way

Navigating altering trade dynamics has pushed Lourd to get inventive with a number of offers to fulfill the wants of each corporations and purchasers.

When Disney signed a cope with director Jon Favreau in 2018 to govt produce and write Star Wars sequence “The Mandalorian,” Lourd labored with Disney’s then-head of streaming, Kevin Mayer, to get Favreau a novel deal of money and Disney inventory. The considering behind the contract was “The Mandalorian” would result in a increase in Disney+ subscribers, and Favreau needed to have the ability to take part within the potential upside. Mayer and Lourd determined the perfect proxy for Disney+ efficiency was Disney inventory, understanding the corporate’s shares would largely commerce on the efficiency of the flagship streaming service.

Temuera Morrison stars as Boba Fett in “The Mandalorian.”

Supply: Disney

That turned out to be correct. Disney shares boomed throughout the pandemic, even with theme parks closed, as a result of Disney+ subscribers grew by leaps and bounds every quarter. Favreau signed his cope with Disney shares round $90. By February 2021, that they had doubled to greater than $180 per share. They’ve since come again down amid broader market declines, with Disney at just under $100 per share as of Friday’s shut.

Disney+ ended its fiscal third quarter with greater than 152 million world subscribers.

“He helps folks with company-level strategic choices,” Mayer, who has since based the media funding agency Candle Media, mentioned about Lourd. “He is a terrific agent, however he transcends that.”

Shell, of NBCUniversal, and movie producer Jason Blum even have Lourd to thank on a extremely uncommon so-called first-look deal struck in 2014 that is turned out to be “wildly profitable” for each events, Blum mentioned.

As an alternative of NBCUniversal paying Blum charges for his movies, which have included 2017’s “Get Out” and 2018’s “Halloween,” each of which grossed over $250 million worldwide on budgets of $10 million or much less, Blum needed to construct fairness in his personal manufacturing firm, Blumhouse. Lourd architected a cope with then-Common Photos Chairman Donna Langley during which NBCUniversal took a non-controlling fairness stake in Blumhouse, with Blum’s charges going again into the corporate slightly than into his checking account.

At first, Shell, who on the time ran Common, was skeptical of the concept. However Lourd crafted a sophisticated 10-year contract, giving the corporate quite a lot of community and cable tv reveals, digital properties, and, in fact, low-budget horror films.

Shell echoed sentiments from Sarandos, Van Amburg, Starz’s Hirsch and Zaslav that conversations with Lourd steadily go effectively past expertise offers, spanning topics from potential hires to the metaverse to how dwell sports activities needs to be built-in in streaming video.

“Bryan is an issue solver,” Shell mentioned. “He is the closest factor within the trade to the age-old superagent of yesteryear.”

Blum summed it up extra succinctly.

“I do not see him as an agent,” Blum mentioned. “He is a Hollywood govt.”

WATCH: Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel breaks down the media and leisure panorama.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the guardian firm of CNBC.

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