After last year’s news that Discovery Communications would merge with WarnerMedia, David Zaslav, incoming Warner Bros. Discovery’s CEO, familiarized himself with Hollywood and selected appropriate professionals to help him run the merged firm. Alan Horn, Bob Iger, Bob Daley, Ari Emanuel and Bryan Lourd are among the Hollywood heavyweights he contacted while the CEO sought professional advice for a year.
Lourd (61) is not famous and is not yet an influential person in Hollywood. He has been co-leader of CAA, one of two leading talent agencies, since 1995. Lourd’s clients include Brad Pitt. Clooney, Goodman. Scarlett Johansson. Here is Octavia Spencer. Alejandro González Iárritu’s movie. Producer Lorne Michaels. Cases abound. Zaslav offered to become chairman of Warner Bros. to become while asking Lourd for their opinion on Warner Bros. Discovery.
Hollywood’s dumbest star
Bryan Lourd is a deal maker and CEO confidant as the entertainment industry transforms. Lourd has worked with George Clooney and Brad Pitt and is admired by Hollywood’s elite. Lourd played a pivotal role in recent talks with Apple and Disney, two streaming giants. Studio executive: “He’ll tell you to go to hell so sweetly you’ll ask for directions.”
Agents move agencies. MCA recruited CAA co-founder Ron Meyer to oversee Universal in 1995. Michael Ovitz, another CAA co-founder, was eventually recruited by Disney as president and CEO, making him Michael Eisner’s No. 2. Lourd rose to prominence in 1995 at CAA amid a flood of new hires and the departure of a third co-founder, Bill Haber, to join the Save the Children Federation.
Zaslav considered placing Michael DeLuca as head of Warner’s DC Comics film and TV division. DeLuca resigned as MGM’s film chairman after its sale to Amazon. Lourd then suggested putting Zaslav DeLuca and Pam Abdy in charge of Warner Bros. Unnamed sources say Lourd heard Zaslav’s offer but never considered leaving CAA. Zaslav watched it in June. DeLuca and Abdy are Warner Bros. Pictures Group co-chairmen and CEOs. The position of deputy chief of staff has not been filled. It’s clear why Lourd stayed put.
Iger warned last month that the entertainment business was undergoing a “major upheaval”. Major media companies are merging and focusing on online video streaming as the media industry advances. Apple and Amazon are becoming formidable, well-funded competitors. Disney, NBCUniversal, WarnerMedia and CBS have all had new CEOs in the past year.
Netflix’s share price has fallen more than 60% this year as investors turn against the corporation. “Have the golden years of entertainment passed us by?” wonder media moguls.
More than a dozen media executives told CNBC that it boosted Lourd’s influence among business leaders. “Hollywood’s last real star,” says Zaslav. Lourd is a conservative who enjoys analyzing classic films and critiquing his clients’ work. Former HBO chief Richard Plepler says he is a “smart consigliere” to most industry participants.
Lourd is known for his impact and anonymity.
He advised Zaslav on Warner Bros. hires, encouraged Apple TV+ to overspend on its clients’ upcoming projects, and nominated board members. Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix, says he is one of Hollywood’s most important figures. Lourd declined this interview. He doesn’t look sick though.
“Not Entourage” is a better title as it defines what it is not.
Many people associate Plepler and “Entourage” with Hollywood, but these qualities are not typical. Piven modeled Ari Gold on Emanuel’s tough, in-your-face personality. Iger, Paramount Pictures president Brian Robbins, Starz CEO Jeff Hirsch, NBCUniversal president Jeff Shell, and Zaslav all praised Lourd. Iger: “He’s unique.” He rose to power through threats and intimidation in a universe of super-agents. He always tells the truth. He can energize communities by championing popular initiatives. Sometimes he says, “It would have been better.”