Agent provocateur: Michel's defection rocks publishing

The publishing world has been rocked by the news that Caroline Michel, the glamorous doyenne of the top talent agency William Morris, has jumped ship to the rival agency PFD.

Michel, a star in the publishing firmament who only recently moved into representing talent, has been made the chief executive of PFD in a move described as "out of the blue" by industry insiders. Her appointment this week has caused some upset at PFD, where she was brought in over the heads of existing directors, scotching hopes of a management buyout.

On a broader level, it is a microcosm for what is happening in the publishing industry, with cross-media deals between the worlds of literature and entertainment and the consolidation of talent agencies becoming the norm.

PFD represents some of the biggest names in the literary world including Simon Schama, Julian Barnes, Alan Bennett, John Mortimer and Joanna Trollope, as well as stars of stage, screen and comedy, including Kate Winslet, Dawn French and Ricky Gervais. It also holds the copyright to the literary estates of Hilaire Belloc, Nancy Mitford, JB Priestley, Evelyn Waugh and Rebecca West.

But for some time the directors of PFD have been hoping to stage a management buyout from its parent company, the global sports and entertainment marketing group CSS Stellar. At a meeting at which Michel was due to address the staff of her new company for the first time, on Tuesday afternoon, turnout was said to be low, with reports that Pat Kavanagh, the wife of Julian Barnes and an agent at PFD, was conspicuously missing.

There has been speculation that some of the agents could decide to leave the company, taking their star clients with them. But in other quarters, Michel's appointment has been hailed as a brilliant move.

Alain de Botton, who is represented by PFD, sang her praises, saying: "Caroline Michel has the biggest address book, the most engaging smile, the most flattering manner, the greatest appetite for novelty and literary success of anyone in London publishing. I could think of no better match between job description and personality."

CSS Stellar acquired PFD in 2001. Since then, its agents, including Caroline Dawnay, Simon Trewin, Rosemary Cantor, Robert Kirby and Charles Walker, have been pushing to buy out the parent company. But CSS rejected a £4m bid, unveiling a rival bid worth £8m from the licensing company Chorion.

By bringing in Michel, however, the new CSS chairman, David Buchler, has made it clear that a sale is no longer on the horizon. Instead, Michel will be expected to turn the company into the equivalent of one of the big American super-talent agencies such as William Morris and ICM.

Mr Buchler said: "The uncertainty that has surrounded the future of PFD is now at an end and the appointment of Caroline Michel sends a clear and strong message." While one or two might choose to leave the company, he added: "I think the majority of people I've spoken to will be delighted."

Michel said she hoped the existing agents at PFD would stay on: "I know there has been talk of resignations. I hope they'll give it time. Before, there hasn't been investment, there haven't been the resources. Now there is the vision to create an agency that can compete with the big American agencies."

One of the advantages of an agency such as PFD is that it can cross-promote talent across film, theatre, books and television.

Michel is one of the most glamorous figures in publishing. She has only been involved in the agency business since 2005 when she joined the William Morris Agency (WMA) as managing director. But she has a long and distinguished track record in the book world, where she is well known for her publicity skills.

Before joining WMA, she was the managing director and publisher of Harper Press, the literary division of Harper Collins. For 10 years before that she was the publisher of Vintage, the paperback division of Random House.

One of the founding directors of the Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury, she has represented and published writers including Jeanette Winterson, Ian McEwan, Rose Tremain, Salman Rushdie, AS Byatt and Martin Amis. One half of one of the most powerful couples in the literary world, she is married to Matthew, now Lord, Evans, the former chairman of Faber and Faber. She is believed to have clinched the deal to publish the late politician Alan Clark's diaries for the firm Weidenfeld by wearing a short skirt.

One literary insider credited her success at William Morris to her talent for entertaining. "She gave these unbelievably glamorous dinner parties. You could find yourself sitting next to Sean Connery," the source said.

In his blog, the deputy editor of The Bookseller, Joel Rickett, suggested that Michel might persuade many of the existing agents to stay at PFD by allowing them to broker cross-media deals on behalf of their clients and allow them to take generous commission.

Big players in the publishing world

Pat Kavanagh

The wife of the author Julian Barnes, Kavanagh is an agent at PFD, where she represents authors including her husband, Robert Harris, Ruth Rendell and Andrew Motion. Barnes fell out with Martin Amis after he left Kavanagh for a new agent, Andrew "the jackal" Wylie.

Andrew Wylie

As well as swiping Amis and securing him a reputed £460,000 book deal, Wylie has represented Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer and Salman Rushdie. He is renowned for moves such as signing Benazir Bhutto in a (successful) bid to sign up Rushdie. Based in New York, he has an office in London.

David Godwin

So keen was Godwin to sign up Arundhati Roy, so the story goes, that he caught the first flight to Delhi to sign her up and secured her more than $1m in advances. His agency represents authors including Simon Armitage, Howard Marks and Fergal Keane.

Ed Victor

Worked for Weidenfeld & Nicolson and Jonathan Cape before establishing his own agency in 1976. His clients have included Will Self, Erica Jong and the late Dame Iris Murdoch. He is said to have secured a £3.4m deal for the memoirs of the Rolling Stone Keith Richards.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the Jurassic World trailer
film

Video: The official full-length trailer for the Jurassic Park sequel has dropped – two days early

Environment
The plant ‘Nepenthes zygon’ was donated to Kew in 2004
environment
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer snapped celebrities for 40 years - but it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Guru Careers: PR Account Manager / PR AM

£28 - 34k: Guru Careers: An ambitious PR Account Manager is needed to join a c...

Guru Careers: Web Content Editor / Web Editor

£35 - 45k: Guru Careers: A Web Content Editor / Web Editor is needed to join a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital