CNN Drama Spills Over to Top Talent Agency UTA

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

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The drama consuming CNN’s morning show has now apparently spilled over into a top talent agency.

Rival agencies are circling some of United Talent Agency’s biggest names after CNN rising star Kaitlan Collins decided to fire her agent, UTA chief Jay Sures, over the handling of her off-air bust up with Don Lemon, a fellow UTA client, Confider has learned.

It comes as another big on-air name, MSNBC’s Symone Sanders, also dumped UTA last week for WME, where Collins has also just signed. UTA reps some of the biggest names in news, including CNN stars Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper, Kate Bolduan, Dana Bash, John Berman and Alisyn Camerota; ABC News personalities David Muir, Rebecca Jarvis and Ginger Zee; CBS hosts Norah O’Donnell, Lesley Stahl and Bill Whitaker; and NBC Newsers Chuck Todd, Jen Psaki and Tom Llamas.

When Collins needed Sures the most he “ghosted” her to instead look after Lemon, according to two people familiar with the situation. Now sensing blood in the water, agents at CAA and WME have been reaching out to Sures’ clients, sources told us, in the hopes of poaching them.

Sures, who is well-known for his leaks to the press in the hope of boosting his clients and trashing rivals, has seen his industry influence wane in recent years, particularly at CNN where, our sources said he has made it known he doesn’t think current CEO Chris Licht is up to the job.

In fact, Sures, who has no experience as a TV executive or a journalist, has told multiple people he should be running CNN and spent months promoting himself as a candidate through columns, including some written by Puck scribe Dylan Byers, another UTA client. Byers mentioned Sures in seven separate pieces while writing about the future leadership of CNN, while only declaring in three a conflict of interest.

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On Feb. 2, 2022, Byers reported: “While casting about for other hypothetical replacements, some in [Jeff] Zucker’s orbit floated the idea that Sures himself could be a candidate, given that he has closer relationships with CNN talent than anyone besides Zucker and [Allison] Gollust.” And then on Feb. 6: “But when it comes to having the love and loyalty of CNN insiders, Sures is unrivaled. Moreover, as I’ve been surveying CNN executives and on-air talent over the last 96 hours, more and more of them seem to be piqued by the idea of a Sures-led CNN. Like Zucker, he’s competitive and plays to win.”

Byers later admitted that, despite his reporting, Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav never actually spoke with Sures about the job. “Meanwhile, UTA superagent Jay Sures had the connections but not the broadcasting and journalism experience," he wrote on Feb. 26 after Licht was named to the gig. “Anyway, I’ve since learned that Zaslav never spoke to any of the aforementioned names about the job.” Since June 1, 2022, Byers had writtenmore than 40 columns about CNN, many of them highly critical of Licht.

Byers told Confider: “Thanks for being such a close reader. I have no comment.”

“Chris and Jay are friends,” a UTA spokesperson emailed Confider. “Jay has the utmost respect for Chris and has no desire to do anything except his role as Vice Chairman of UTA.”

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