Michel on a mission at PFD

<p><em>Joel Rickett writes:</em></p>
<p>Caroline Michel will need to use all of her legendary charm on her new team at PFD. After all, this group of high-powered agents thought they were on the verge of taking control of their own destiny; suddenly they&rsquo;ve got a new boss and their &pound;4m buyout bid has been swept off the table.</p>
<p>Michel&rsquo;s mission is to calm some frayed nerves after years of inadequate ownership by CSS Stellar. These agents want the freedom to broker cross-media deals on behalf of their authors, and then take a lion&rsquo;s share of the rewards&mdash;so she&rsquo;ll probably look to draw up some attractive new commission packages to keep them aboard.</p>
<p>But why step into this highly charged, political arena at all? Apart from the financial incentives, Michel sees an opportunity to take PFD to the next level. After two years at William Morris she knows how a giant US agency works &ndash; hyping up creative work, aggressively negotiating deals, sharing the &ldquo;talent&rdquo; across film, theatre, books, television, online. She believes that PFD can dominate Europe in the same way. It certainly has the base to do so&mdash;an A-List of clients from Julian Barnes to Kate Winslet, from Alan Bennett to Anne Robinson, not to mention the literary estates of Belloc, Koestler, Mitford, Priestley, Waugh and West.</p>
<p>Running literary agencies is a notoriously fraught business. Trade wisdom has it that loyalty of the authors is primarily to the agents, who can jump to a rival operation or go it alone. Yet while this is theoretically true, agents moving are usually forced to leave all their contracts behind&mdash;and thus their dependable income streams. Not to mention their offices, assistants, accountants... Increasingly, many authors also prefer the security and brand benefits of being represented by a larger group.</p>
<p>The bigger picture is that agenting has long left behind the amateur, kitchen-table image of yesteryear. Its nexus of creativity and power has attracted some of the industry&rsquo;s brightest people, and is increasingly on the business and City radar. More consolidation is inevitable and, as media converges around valuable content, fortunes will be made (albeit from fewer, larger deals). Both Michel and the new CSS chairman David Buchler, a corporate turnaround specialist, will hope they'll be made at PFD.</p>