A-Rod's Agency on Lecture Circuit Sold to Hollywood Talent Firm

(Bloomberg) -- United Talent Agency, which represents Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, is moving into public speaking with the purchase of the Greater Talent Network and clients including baseball’s Alex Rodriguez and ex-prosecutor Preet Bharara.

UTA announced the acquisition Tuesday in a statement, without providing terms. Greater Talent Network was founded in 1982, with authors P.J. O’Rourke and Tom Wolfe as its initial clients.

Companies, trade associations and interest groups spend millions a year on speakers. Based partly on income from such addresses, former President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary earned more than $139 million from 2007 to 2014, according to filings. Former President Barack Obama’s fee for a speech at a planned conference is $400,000, Fox Business reported. Reality TV star Kim Kardashian is listed on the Celebrity Talent International website as available for corporate and fund-raising events at a minimum fee of as much as $299,000.

“The business of live entertainment has never been bigger,” Jay Sures, co-president of UTA, said in an interview. “This deal gives their clients more access to more services, and gives UTA clients true expertise on the speaking circuit.”

While the deal seems like a natural combination -- with UTA gaining additional clients such as Rodriguez, known as A-Rod -- it underscores how far talent agencies are pushing beyond their original mission of representing stars in movies and TV shows.

In recent years, the larger Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Agency have used money from private equity firms to amass holdings in sports, fashion and production, stoking speculation the two companies would attempt to go public.

Expansion Drive

UTA has also bulked up. In 2014, the company acquired N.S. Bienstock, which represents top news anchors. Sures said he used newfound heft in the field to sign CNN’s Jake Tapper and Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

A year later, UTA raised money from Jeffrey Ubben, founder of ValueAct Capital Management, to buy music touring firm the Agency Group. UTA established a fine arts division the same year, and this weekend hosted an opening for the designers the Haas Brothers at a gallery in downtown Los Angeles. The purchase of Greater Talent Network pushes UTA’s staff to almost 900 people.

Under the deal, Greater Talent Networks founder Don Epstein becomes a UTA partner. The company will continue to operate out of its New York and Florida offices.

“Our competitors have dabbled in the world of public speaking,” Sures said. “We thought buying one of the world’s largest speakers’ bureaus and being dominant in the area would be a game changer for us.”