United Talent Agency, one of the leading representation firms in Hollywood, has joined with the influential N.B.A. agent Rich Paul to create a sports division for the entertainment company.
Paul, who represents LeBron James and 22 other N.B.A. players under his Klutch Sports Group banner, was named the head of U.T.A. Sports on Wednesday. The alliance calls for Klutch, with Paul as chief executive, to operate as United Talent’s sports division while retaining its own branding.
“We’ve been looking for the right sports opportunity for quite a while,” said Jeremy Zimmer, the talent agency’s chief executive. “We have taken a significant stake in Klutch, but Rich retains very substantial controls because we want it to be his business and we love what he’s doing.”
Neither side would divulge the amount of the stake, but Paul said “nothing changes” in terms of how Klutch’s basketball business operates and that the investment will enable him “to go out and further build Klutch.”
United Talent Agency represents several high-profile actors, including Angelina Jolie, Kevin Hart, Chris Pratt and Tiffany Haddish, as well companies such as Coca-Cola, General Motors and Delta Air Lines. Yet the firm, which restricted itself to off-the-field sports business until now, said it needs Paul’s muscle as it moves into direct competition with the established sports divisions at U.T.A.’s primary rivals in Hollywood: Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Endeavor.
U.T.A.’s move to recruit Paul to lead its sports division is the latest example of the rising influence that the biggest stars in basketball — and a power-broker like Paul — possess. Players and their representatives are exerting that influence more and more to orchestrate moves to the teams they want to play for, as seen repeatedly this off-season. Increasingly, they are carrying that influence into the entertainment industry.
Rather than try to start a sports division from scratch or seek a merge with an entertainment conglomerate to go head-to-head with C.A.A. and W.M.E., U.T.