Following last year’s news that Discovery Communications will merge with WarnerMedia, incoming Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav familiarised himself with Hollywood and chose appropriate professionals to assist him in running the merged firm. Alan Horn, Bob Iger, Bob Daley, Ari Emanuel, and Bryan Lourd are among the Hollywood heavy hitters he contacted as the executive soaked up professional advice for a year.
Lourd, 61, isn’t well-known yet influential in Hollywood. He’s co-led CAA, one of two leading talent agencies, since 1995. Lourd’s clients include Brad Pitt. Clooney, Goodman. Scarlett Johansson. Here’s Octavia Spencer. Alejandro González Iárritu’s movie. Producer Lorne Michaels. Instances abound. Zaslav offered to become chairman of Warner Bros. while asking Lourd for their opinion on Warner Bros. Discovery.
Hollywood’s Dumbest Star
Bryan Lourd is a dealmaker and CEO confidant as the entertainment industry transforms. Lourd has worked with George Clooney and Brad Pitt and is appreciated by Hollywood’s elite. Lourd has played a crucial 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 ascended to prominence at CAA in 1995 following a flood of new employees and the departure of a third co-founder, Bill Haber, to join 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 Zaslav put DeLuca and Pam Abdy in control of Warner Bros. Unnamed sources say Lourd heard Zaslav’s offer but never contemplated quitting CAA. Zaslav watched it in June. DeLuca and Abdy are Warner Bros. Pictures Group co-chairs and CEOs. The deputy chief of staff position is unfilled. It’s clear why Lourd remained put.
Iger warned last month that the entertainment business is undergoing a “huge upheaval.” Large media companies are merging and focusing on online video streaming as the media industry advances. Apple and Amazon are becoming formidable, well-funded rivals. Disney, NBCUniversal, WarnerMedia, and CBS have all had new CEOs in recent years.
Netflix’s stock price has dropped over 60% this year as investors turn against the corporation. “Have the golden years of entertainment passed us by?” media moguls wonder.
More than a dozen media executives told CNBC that this strengthened Lourd’s influence among business leaders. “Hollywood’s last real star,” says Zaslav. Lourd is a conservative who enjoys analyzing classic films and criticizes his clients’ work. Former HBO chief Richard Plepler says he’s a “smart consigliere” for most industry participants.
Lourd is known for his impact and anonymity.
He counseled Zaslav on Warner Bros. hires, encouraged Apple TV+ to overspend on his clients’ upcoming projects, and nominated board members. Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos says he’s one of Hollywood’s most significant figures. Lourd refused this interview. He doesn’t appear sick, however.
“Not Entourage” is a better title since it defines what it isn’t.
Many people link Plepler and “Entourage” with Hollywood, yet these attributes aren’t typical. Piven modeled Ari Gold on Emanuel’s loud, in-your-face persona. Iger, Paramount Pictures president Brian Robbins, Starz CEO Jeff Hirsch, NBCUniversal president Jeff Shell, and Zaslav all praised Lourd. Iger: “He’s unique.” He ascended to power by threats and intimidation in a universe of superagents. He always tells the truth. He may galvanize communities by championing popular initiatives. Sometimes he says, “That would have been better.”