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The Culture Shift That Led To CEO Bill Weinstein’s Ouster read full article at worldnews365.me

In 2010, Endeavor lit agents Bill Weinstein, Adam Levine and Bryan Besser left in the wake of the WMA merger to launch a new agency built on a different, client-first approach to representation and a different culture from the corporate-minded big firms.

Fourteen years later, Weinstein, who was announced as Verve CEO a year ago, exited abruptly Monday, sending shockwaves through the talent representation community.

At the time of his ouster, the agency’s leadership did not comment on the reasons beyond thanking him “for his 14 years of service.” Verve yesterday raised the curtain a bit in a statement confirming the departures of lit agents Devon Schiff, Matthew Doyle and Jake Dillman, who are expected to join Weinstein at a new agency he is believed to be launching.

In a surprisingly pointed wording, the agency noted that “Since [Weinstein’s] departure Monday, we have let go of a few additional employees whose visions do not align with the culture and the future of Verve.” Verve declined comment for this story.

Five people who have worked at Verve over the past decade, as well as several others who have had dealings with the agency, spoke to Deadline about Weinstein’s management style and the culture of fear he allegedly fostered.

“He led by fear,” one person said, a sentiment echoed by others who indicated that many Verve employees “were living in utter fear” under Weinstein.

A former colleague praised Weinstein’s agenting skills but noted that some of the qualities that make a great agent did not translate well to being a good manager.

“He is a much better agent than a leader,” another Verve alum said.

In response to the allegations, Weinstein provided a statement (You can read it in full below the story).

“I work with drive and passion to lift my clients to reach their greatest potential,” he said. “I deeply value my employees and the personal and professional relationships we share. I lead with fairness and patience and a dogged focus toward progress and the future.”

According to the current and former Verve employees, the behavioral shift started a couple of years ago, with Weinstein’s aggressive return-to-the office push making staffers question the company’s identity as “we are the good guys, we treat our employees well,” as one person put it.

Additionally, staffers whose work Weinstein did not approve of were ostracized and dressed down by him in company meetings and other public settings, a former Verve agent said.

“A great environment turned into a poisoned environment,” the person added.

That was reflected in an anonymous survey of Verve assistants conducted in January 2022, which was followed by a town hall, with concerns about Weinstein raised at both, sources said.

Deadline has reviewed copies of some of the survey submissions. In one, an employee said that they were scared to go to the office and were upset over Weinstein’s comments about Covid and his insistence on work in-person while people were still dying in large numbers. “Is this supposed productivity worth that risk?” the person asked.

Weinstein’s treatment of assistants also was spotlighted in the survey.

“I have witnessed verbal abuse of assistants guised as ‘teaching’ multiple times,” one entry read. “Bill Weinstein naturally being the top contender, as he prefers having an audience for his bullying. It really blows my mind that this behavior is allowed in 2022. Is this the ‘Verve culture’?”

Things allegedly accelerated after Weinstein became Verve CEO.

According to a well-placed source, Weinstein was unofficially named chief executive in 2022; his title was announced in January 2023.

Weinstein’s ascent to CEO was described by a former agent as a “power coup,” which a current agent said was enabled by the state of fear within the company.

Another former agent said that internally, Weinstein’s tactic was called “bulldozing,” which entailed “picking up [decision-makers] one by one and beating them into submission” in order to get the support needed.

After Weinstein informally assumed the top post, things began to further deteriorate, raising concerns among the agency leadership who tried to “wrangle him,” as one source put it.

“He started being very erratic and getting much worse with anger,” a Verve alum said. “He would use anger as a weapon to bully people.”

I hear things came to a head at a December 15, 2022 board meeting where Weinstein tried to disband the board, asking members to step down or leave the company and threatening to start a new agency and take agents with him if his demands were not met.

According to sources, Weinstein partially succeeded and a month later, his CEO title was officially announced. (Following Weinstein’s departure, the responsibilities of that role will be absorbed by the founders and managing partners.) 

“Verve did really well for the first 10 years being a certain kind of company. We were ethical, we were supporting our clients, we were not doing horse-trading and other stuff big agencies do. It was not about the money,” one insider said. “With Bill, it was all about the money.”

Weinstein allegedly made important decisions, including promising internal promotions, without his partners’ knowledge, and created at least one hidden booking in the agency accounting system, according to sources. An insider told Deadline that Weinstein had made employees who were not part of his inner circle feel like their job was at risk.

In his statement, Weinstein did not address specific allegations, only saying that “I will not now, as I have not in the past, look to smear or harm others for my own benefit.”

Facing growing frustration among Verve staff, Weinstein was voted out by the agency leadership, the board and the partnership, on Monday. The group includes Weinstein’s brother, Adam Weinstein, who remains at Verve.

“My partners and I have long disagreed on best business practices, accountability and equality,” Weinstein said in his statement. “I will continue to work to resolve our disputes internally and with dignity and propriety. The truth always prevails.”

Following Weinstein’s departure, Verve staffers expressed mostly relief.

“The company is in good place, every office door is open, people are enjoying life again without a person having a thumb on them,” one agent said. “People like the job they are doing without fear of doing it a different way.”

Over the last five years, Verve has made overtures and has been the object of overtures by other agencies interested in acquiring it. The list is said to include Paradigm, APA (pre-merger), ICM (also pre-merger) and, more recently, Gersh.

For the approaches that reached a conversation stage, I hear Weinstein, taking a page out of the Endeavor playbook in orchestrating the merger with the larger WMA, asked to run the combined entity despite Verve being the smaller company in the potential matchup. That was a non-starter, sources said.

While Verve has looked to do things differently than Endeavor, the company that shaped the Verve co-founders, Weinstein may not have gotten out of its shadow as he has been open about looking to emulate Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel.

“They wanted to be the anti-Ari ,” one agency alum said about Verve’s original mission. “Bill turned into Ari.”

Here is Weinstein’s statement in its entirety.

I endeavor to always strive for excellence. I work with drive and passion to lift my clients to reach their greatest potential. I deeply value my employees and the personal and professional relationships we share.  I lead with fairness and patience and a dogged focus toward progress and the future.

I will not now, as I have not in the past, look to smear or harm others for my own benefit. My partners and I have long disagreed on best business practices, accountability and equality.

I will continue to work to resolve our disputes internally and with dignity and propriety. The truth always prevails.  

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