Casey Wasserman had long pledged to stay away from the traditional entertainment business, but he said a new media landscape changed his thinking.
For decades, Casey Wasserman has insisted that he would never enter the traditional entertainment business. Film and TV felt too incestuous — his grandfather Lew Wasserman reigned as Hollywood’s power broker from the 1960s to the 1990s — and too financially challenged, he would say.
Never say never: Mr. Wasserman, 49, announced on Monday that his sports-centered conglomerate, Wasserman, had completed a deal to buy Brillstein Entertainment Partners, a Hollywood management firm and content production company. Terms were not disclosed.
Brillstein represents stars like Brad Pitt, Tiffany Haddish, Adam Sandler, Florence Pugh, Rami Malek and Elizabeth Olsen. The firm also represents digital creators, podcasters and professional video game players. Brillstein, which landed a major hit in 1999 with “The Sopranos” and has a hand in “Real Time With Bill Maher,” recently signed a first-look deal with Paramount Television Studios and has projects in the works at Netflix, Disney and Amazon.
What changed Mr. Wasserman’s mind?
“The media business is radically different than it was even five years ago, and that frankly requires us to think differently about how we represent sports and music talent,” he said. “Musicians are on TikTok and athletes are on YouTube and people want to produce documentaries. The lines have blurred a lot more than I think anyone would have expected even five years ago.”
He continued, “Athletes used to monetize themselves in sports, musicians in music, entertainment in entertainment space, and those lines are gone.”
Wasserman, founded in 2002 as the Wasserman Media Group, has become one of the largest sports representation and marketing agencies in the world. After a failed expansion into the management of musicians in the early 2000s, Wasserman tried again in recent years and now has a large music division, representing artists and bands like Billie Eilish, Brandi Carlile, Drake and Coldplay.
Mr. Wasserman said he intended to expand Brillstein’s television and film production business, perhaps by acquiring additional film and television companies. “We want to get this first step right,” he said. “But this is a first step, not a last step.”
Brillstein was founded in 1969 by Bernie Brillstein, a garrulous talent manager who died in 2008. With early clients like Lorne Michaels and Jim Henson, Mr. Brillstein built his firm into one of Hollywood’s leading management companies. His business model — managing stars and helping to produce television shows and movies for them — attracted competitors, some of which (Anonymous Content, 3 Arts Entertainment) would eventually surpass Brillstein in size.
Jon Liebman, Brillstein’s co-chief executive, said that Wasserman would provide the resources needed to expand, particularly in content production. “The business has become incredibly complex,” Mr. Liebman said. “The days when a manager could effectively serve clients without being plugged into a larger organization are over.”
Brooks Barnes covers all things Hollywood for The New York Times. He has reported on the entertainment business for two decades and lives in Los Angeles. More about Brooks Barnes