Diane Banks' agency rebrands with backing from Luke Johnson

Diane Banks' agency rebrands with backing from Luke Johnson

Diane Banks Associates has relaunched as creative talent agency Northbank Talent Management, aiming to be a “new force in the agenting world”, in collaboration with business leader Luke Johnson, who is financially backing the venture.

Northbank's c.e.o. Diane Banks approached Johnson, formerly chair of Channel 4, last year with the idea of creating a “360 degree service”. The revamped agency will now give equal weighting to books, broadcast, brand licensing and public speaking.

Agent Kate Burke will be responsible for the fiction side of the books strand and Chloe Seager will oversee children’s, young adult and fantasy. Northbank’s executive director Martin Redfern will deal with non-fiction, James Carroll will handle broadcast and brand licensing, while Northbank's non-executive director Alex Hickman will head up the public speaking bureau which aims to be "market beating". Banks promises that "Alex and I will use our combined experience of the bureau and talent management models respectively to create a new model which integrates the two". 

Johnson, meanwhile, will take the role of chairman.

Along with Johnson, Hickman and Banks on the board, the company employs four agents and operations staff, but Banks said there are plans to recruit one or two agents for the speaking bureau as well as a full-time marketing and communications role.

In the past three months, the London-based agency has achieved “substantial” five and six-figure fiction deals including Will Dean, Fiona Ford and Anna Fargher, as well as three book-to-screen options, a stage development with the RSC and The Barbican Centre, TV talent on major channels in the UK and US, and has made significant signings in its fast-growing children’s list, it said. It is actively seeking new clients.

Banks founded the company in 2006 following a career with publishers such as Penguin and Hodder & Stoughton. She began discussing rebranding the business with Johnson, best known for his involvement in Pizza Express, last year. He is investing in Northbank to enable it to expand.

Banks told The Bookseller: "In a fast moving media landscape where formats are merging and new outlets for content are being created all the time, the importance of being able to offer our clients full service representation has been clear to me for the past couple of years.  This was the obvious next step for the agency and I’ve spent a lot of time exploring ways to bring it to fruition."

She revealed that the company was "very much open to submissions and new business opportunities". 

"I pitched the business plan to a number of potential investors, but Luke’s interest in and understanding of the media and creative industries stood out a mile," Banks said. Combined with Hickman’s experience of building a global speaking bureau, I feel that we have the perfect partnership.  I’ve been carefully building the team of agents over the past couple of years, each of them absolute experts in their respective areas, and I feel that we now have the makings of something very exciting."

She added: “When I pitched the idea to Luke last year, he immediately understood the vision of building a full- service agency to provide a 360 degree service to clients in a fast-moving world. I have long admired Luke as an inspirational business leader, and his extensive experience in the media and arts combined with Northbank’s dream team of agents places us firmly on the map as a new force in the agenting world."

Johnson is formerly the chair of Channel 4 and of the Royal Society of the Arts and was previously a non-executive director of art and cookery specialist Phaidon Press. He is also the author of several books such as Start it Up (Portfolio Penguin), The Maverick: Dispatches from an Unrepentant Capitalist (Harriman House Publishing). In 1993 Johnson took over PizzaExpress with partners and subsequently became chairman, expanding the business from 12 owned restaurants to more than 150, growing the share price from 40p to over 900p. He sold out in 1999.

He said: “I think there is room for a new creative talent agency in London. Diane’s venture will give equal weighting to books, broadcast, brand licensing and public speaking, and Northbank’s boutique size means that clients’ individual interests will be at the heart of everything it does. I look forward to supporting her enterprise with its ambitious plans in the years ahead.”

The agency’s clients include Sir Anthony Seldon, journalist Camilla Cavendish, novelist Katerina Diamond, RNA multi-award-winning novelist Dani Atkins, saga writers Daisy Styles and Kate Thompson and children’s author Anna Fargher.

The relaunch is the latest in a series of moves within the publishing industry to capitilise on the burgeoning opportunities around book-to-film and TV. Last year an unprecedented tranche of new-media players visited the London Book Fair, following on the back of a “dramatic explosion” in book-to-film/TV and audio deals. Industry figures such as Hannah Griffiths, head of literary acquisitions at production company All3Media, cited the “exponential growth” in hours of airtime through streaming platforms marking an “optimistic moment” for the trade.

Meanwhile agent Ivan Mulcahy merged his eponymous agency with Milburn Browning Associates two years ago to position the new agency at the centre of the new world of books and TV, forming MMBcreative, with a new agent joining last year to work specifically on dramatic rights. Earlier this year, former Simon & Schuster executive director Kerr MacRae launched a literary agency and creative productions business with MacRae LPA spanning books, broadcast, social media and events.  Curtis Brown, one of the most proactive agencies responding to TV and film trends, created a new book-to-film role three years ago - which Marjacq's former agent Luke Speed took on - and in 2016 BBC Worldwide bought a 10% stake in the company's production arm Cuba Pictures to "unlock further production opportunities".

For more information, visit northbanktalent.com.