D10 Second-Night Speaker: Hollywood Power Broker Ari Emanuel
Of all the many power players in Hollywood — from studio moguls to top-name actors and writers to the money men everywhere — one of the key people sitting at the junction of media and tech is undoubtedly Ari Emanuel of William Morris Endeavor.
While better known in popular culture as the inspiration for the fictional and very colorful super-agent Ari Gold of “Entourage,” the real-life version is quite a bit more substantive than that, as the audience at the 10th annual D: All Things Digital conference will find out tomorrow night.
Emanuel will be in the red hot seat at D10, in its prime second-night interview — the first will be Apple CEO Tim Cook tonight, who will be followed by two days of top tech and media speakers.
Emanuel will surely be a lively one to query. At the intersection of entertainment and digital technologies as the co-CEO of WME, he has built the leading entertainment and media firm in Hollywood and well beyond that ZIP code — first as founding partner of the Endeavor Agency, until its mid-2009 merger with the legendary William Morris Agency.
Consider a short list of actors, writers and directors that Emanuel represents: Michael Moore, Martin Scorsese, Nancy Meyers, Matthew Vaughn, Peter Berg, Steve Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, M. Night Shyamalan, Errol Morris, Larry David, Charlie Rose, Charlize Theron, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Douglas and Sacha Baron Cohen.
He has also just struck a very intriguing “strategic partnership” with large private equity firm Silver Lake, which is buying a 31 percent stake to help turbocharge WME’s digital efforts.
“In addition to capital, we really wanted a partner to help us build it out that had more technology expertise,” said Emanuel when the deal was announced earlier this month. “We are good with brands and creative and talent, but there are many more Silicon Valley opportunities.”
What that could turn into is one of the many topics Walt Mossberg and I will discuss with Emanuel onstage, as WME tries to strengthen its digital portfolio to respond to the needs of its clients, and the changing nature of entertainment distribution as consumer Internet use has exploded.
And changing it certainly is, with Emanuel charged with figuring it all out for his stable of clients, in what has been a long career in Hollywood.
Prior to founding Endeavor, he was a partner at InterTalent, and a senior agent at International Creative Management. He began his entertainment industry career as an agent trainee at Creative Artists Agency.
Raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Emanuel graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn.