Agency Chief Slammed for Public Meghan Markle Diss

Pearls were clutched all over Hollywood on Monday in the wake of an unlikely press beef – United Talent Agency CEO Jeremy Zimmer and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

On a media spree at the Cannes Lions for the past week, Zimmer was asked about the recent meltdown of a $20 million multi-year deal Meghan and husband Prince Harry signed with Spotify in 2020. The pact produced a single series, “Archetypes,” which was not renewed. The termination of the deal was announced June 15.

“Turns out Meghan Markle was not a great audio talent, or necessarily any kind of talent,” Zimmer told Semafor at the marketing festival in the South of France. “And, you know, just because you’re famous doesn’t make you great at something.”

His comments were “mind-blowing,” according to one A-list talent manager who asked to remain anonymous. “As an agent, you never publicly discuss your own talent or anyone else’s.”

A top agent from a UTA competitor called Zimmer’s quote “a shocking display of bad taste. Who wants to sign with someone who trashes people like that in public?”

Indeed, the polished suits of the representation business treat their roles behind the scenes as virtue — so rarely stepping out in front that it’s a shock when they offer on-the-record defenses (as CAA’s Bryan Lourd did for his client Scarlett Johansson during her battle with Disney) or speak broadly about larger issues like discrimination (Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel’s decrying of Kanye West’s antisemitism in 2022). UTA represents Harrison Ford, Timothée Chalamet, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and director Wes Anderson, to name a few.

Zimmer’s Markle diss boiled over Monday afternoon, when the New York Post reported that the agency had pursued the formal senior royals as potential clients when they first moved to Los Angeles (an individual familiar with UTA said no meetings were ever scheduled or held with the Sussexes). In April, Meghan landed at a major talent house, signing with WME.

The Zimmer insider added that the CEO fielded relentless questions about Meghan and Spotify the day of his Semafor interview, as a lengthy Wall Street Journal piece about the Sussexes made its way around the world. Since the mid-June split — which was followed closely by one of the company’s own executives, Bill Simmons, calling the couple “grifters” — headlines have been relentless about Meghan and Harry’s creative output.

“Harry and Meghan Produce a Hollywood Flop: Themselves,” said the Journal headline bluntly on Saturday. The subsequent story detailed flailing development on the couple’s audio slate, and ultimately questioned the value major media companies gain in spending millions to secure celebrity talent not innate to show business (Hillary and Chelsea Clinton and the Obamas have similarly high-paying overall streaming deals).

Taking the Sussexes out of the equation, another top dealmaker said “I don’t care who it is, decorum is decorum. I feel for the staff.” Variety spoke with three UTA agents on Monday, who declined to be named in this piece but admitted they were “embarrassed.” Another agent warily pointed to a Monday Instagram post from the agency, celebrating client Randall Park’s recent commencement address at UCLA.

“Disappointment is a recurring character in life,” the post quotes Park. “You will be left with but two options: to hold on to it and become bitter, or to grow from it and become better. Stronger. Smarter. More compassionate. Sometimes, just on the other side of disappointment, you will find a great blessing.”

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