Wattenberg will spearhead content development across Wheelhouse’s TV, film and digital operations, as well as its Wheelhouse Labs branded entertainment wing. The deal is a coup for the company, launched by “Pawn Stars” creator Montgomery in January 2018 after getting his final payout on the $360 million sale of his previous Leftfield Entertainment banner to ITV Studios.
Over the past two years, Wheelhouse has set up creative pacts with Jimmy Kimmel’s Kimmelot, actor-producer Zachary Quinto and athletes such as Steph Curry, Carmelo Anthony and Odell Beckham Jr. Wheelhouse owns a majority interest in Den of Thieves, the live event production company, and it has a range of interests in production banners including Campfire, Spoke Studios and Portal A.
Montgomery, CEO of Wheelhouse, recruited Wattenberg to oversee content development as Montgomery turns his focus to generating sources of production financing directly from advertisers and on consumer product development. Wheelhouse has made a number of investments in startups and budding businesses that have potential to be adapted into media properties.
To date, Wheelhouse has invested a handful of companies including men’s activewear line Rhone, live outdoor exercise service Hydrow, culinary community Food52 and children’s media company Goldieblox, which makes engineering-related toys designed for girls.
Wattenberg was an ideal choice for the chief content officer role because of the depth of his relationships in the creative community and his experience in packaging series projects for a wide swath of TV buyers.
“I was looking for someone with my level of relationships with buyers and producers to take a lot of stuff off my plate,” Montgomery told Variety. “I needed somebody who could keep up with the ambition of what we’re trying to build.”
Based in New York, Wattenberg has been with CAA since 2009, rising to co-head of its alternative TV arm with Alan Braun, who is based in Los Angeles. Before CAA, Wattenberg was an agent at N.S Bienstock and at William Morris Agency. Montgomery noted that his first-ever meeting at an agency was with Wattenberg. The two have been friends and colleagues ever since.
During his tenure at CAA, Wattenberg’s clients have encompassed marquee names — Kelly Ripa, Andy Cohen, Nick Cannon, Hoda Kotb, Billy Porter and Neil Patrick Harris among them — and production banners such as Imagine Entertainment, BBC Worldwide Prods. and Matador Entertainment. Wattenberg called CAA “a remarkable agency that makes you want to be the very best,” but the chance to shift gears and work with Montgomery was too compelling to turn down.
“Brent’s vision for Wheelhouse Group as an aggregator of talent, content, brands and capital feels like a swing for the fences in the evolution of our business. It is a uniquely exciting, entrepreneurial prospect that I simply couldn’t pass up,” Wattenberg said. “I am incredibly grateful to my colleagues at CAA for the amazing opportunities and friendship they have offered me over 10 years, and I plan on continuing to work with them very closely in this new venture.”