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JHRTS NY Recap: A Conversation with Ari Emanuel


Ari Emanuel

Ari Emanuel

by Lindsay Schuster, AMC Production / JHRTS-NYC Board Member

People continued trickling into the 30 Rock conference room 20 minutes into Ari Emanuel’s JHRTS conversation, not because they were running late, but because Ari insisted to forgo his introduction and a scheduled start time, and promptly began his chat 15 minutes early.  This should come as no surprise from a man who catches moderator Willie Geist’s “Morning Joe” every morning at 3AM, followed by a rigorous gym routine and newspaper coverage, all before most of our alarms go off.

Ari moved to New York after college, and at 26 years old, he declined his admission to Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University), moved to LA, and accepted a position in the CAA mailroom. Eventually Ari was promoted to agent, where his first clients included Greg Daniels (“The Office,” “Parks and Recreation”) and Amy Lippman (“Party of Five”). 

At 33 years old, while Ari was an agent at ICM, he was struck by a car that sent him flying 20 feet and left with multiple broken ribs, a torn ACL, a cracked head, and a year and a half of recovery.  This debilitating event was the eye-opener that inspired him and 3 of his fellow agents to infamously steal their files from ICM in the middle of the night to co-found The Endeavor Agency.

Once Endeavor was established as a key agency player, Ari and his partners visited a Harvard Business School professor to discuss the future of the agency and how to expand it. The professor advised that it would need to merge with a more established company. Seven years later, his gunner tenpercentery with the start-up mentality pegged a partner in venerable but fractured William Morris Agency, and the merger came to fruition.

In the Q&A portion, Ari discussed how the television industry is one of the most stable and lucrative in the industry, and in regards to the search for content, he advised that if it’s good, people will find it. He reiterated that note to the aspiring writers in the room – “If you’re talented, someone will find you.  If you’re not talented, you’ll know in 2.5-3 years.” He also focused on the importance of persistence and used his own desk as an example: when he asks his assistants to get someone on the phone, he expects them to call the recipient consistently (and sometimes annoyingly) every 15 minutes until he gets him/her on the line. Leaving word is not an option. He is demanding of his assistants, but he recognizes that if they can anticipate everything that he wants, they are prepared to handle a roster of 40 clients. Surprisingly, Ari has only ever fired one assistant.

Ari’s favorite TV shows include “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Good Wife” (by his wife’s insistence), and “Cake Boss.” While Ari is close friends with “Curb” creator and client Larry David, he revealed the importance of keeping business relationships with his clients, naming only a handful of them as actual friends.  And when Mel Gibson was mentioned in discussion, Ari emphasized that he should have done more than he had already (very openly) done to blacklist the actor.

Ari closed his conversation to us with the same instruction he had jested earlier to an attendee from a rival agency: “Get the fuck out.”

Willie Geist at the JHRTS NY event: A Conversation with Ari Emanuel

Willie Geist at the JHRTS NY event: A Conversation with Ari Emanuel

The JHRTS-NY audience at 30 Rock

The JHRTS New York audience

Willie Geist introduces Ari Emanuel

Willie Geist introduces Ari Emanuel

Photos by Morgan Oliver Mirvis

Editor's note: We are currently working to schedule an Ari Emanuel Q&A for JHRTS Los Angeles. Details TBA.

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