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David Lonner leaving William Morris Agency

by Danielle Berrin

April 28, 2009 | 6:21 pm

I just posted about the William Morris Endeavor merger but I’m so shocked/disappointed/confused about agent David Lonner leaving that I need to vent. So there.

The first thing everyone should know about David Lonner is that he is AWESOME. In addition to being a superagent who reps a darn good roster: J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek”) Alexander Payne (“Sideways”), Brad Silberling (“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”), Jon Turteltaub (“National Treasure”) and Audrey Wells (“Under the Tuscan Sun”), Lonner is also a passionate Israel advocate. For the past few years, Lonner has invited a select group of Hollywood tastemakers on a curtain-raising trip to Israel. On the trip that he co-finances with the Federation, people with little or no previous relationship to Israel get to fall in love with it. My colleague Brad Greenberg wrote about these trips in December 2007 and the L.A. Times caught up in July 2008.

But as of the merger announcement late yesterday, Lonner has hit more troubling times. He will not continue with William Morris into the new, merged climate. How this came to pass is unclear, but suffice it to say, Lonner left Endeavor for William Morris years ago because he wasn’t happy at Endeavor. The bad blood has remained, apparently on both sides. According to Variety, “[Lonner] was abruptly informed last week that he would not be part of the new agency by WMA chief Jim Wiatt and Endeavor topper Ari Emanuel.” In Hollywood fashion, their timing was impeccable because, just last week, Lonner helped J.J. Abrams secure a 5-year deal at Paramount and that commission will remain with the agency that is now ousting him.

More about the merger fallout from Variety:

WMA agent David Lonner, who with Steve Rabineau left partnership positions at Endeavor in 2003 to join WMA, has confirmed he will not be part of the new agency.

Lonner would not comment on the specifics. But it’s understood that he was abruptly informed last week that he would not be part of the new agency by WMA chief Jim Wiatt and Endeavor topper Ari Emanuel.

Lonner was informed of his fate just after his biggest client, J.J. Abrams, re-upped his feature deal at Paramount for five years—a lavish, commission-rich pact that encompasses future “Star Trek” installments. As soon as the deal was completed, Lonner was given the harsh news about his future.Lonner has repped Abrams for 20 years, signing the filmmaker right out of Sarah Lawrence. He has been co-repped by John Fogelman, who will be part of the new WME board.

The timing leaves Lonner with a tough decision: he could become a manager and co-rep Abrams with WMA, or become an agent elsewhere who tries to take Abrams, whose commissions on the Par deal will stay withWMA.

The drama has been playing out over the past week, with both parties trying to figure out an amicable resolution.

Lonner also reps Alexander Payne, Brad Silberling, Jon Turteltaub and Audrey Wells. They are expected to join him.

Lonner told Daily Variety that there is no truth to rumors that he is zeroing in on a destination at this point. “I’m not rushing into a decision,” he said. “I am making sure I give my clients what they need, and as the weeks progress I’ll analyze all the opportunities presented to me, and then I’ll figure it out.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Danielle Berrin writes the Hollywood Jew blog, a cutting edge, values-based take on the entertainment industry for jewishjournal.com. A Los Angeles Times profile dubbed her...

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