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Morgan Wallen: Tough Decisions at the William Morris Endeavor Agency (A)
Parmar, Bidhan L.; Mead, Jenny; Clark-Hamel, Skyler Case E-0494 / Published June 26, 2023 / 4 pages.
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Product Overview

Jay Williams, cohead of the Nashville office of the William Morris Endeavor (WME), must decide how to respond to an incident involving Morgan Wallen, one of the talent agency’s fastest-rising country music stars. Wallen, a white singer, was caught on home security footage using an ethnic slur with a group of white friends after a night of drinking. The following day, the footage was released to the public, and Wallen was swiftly disavowed by his record company, the two largest country music institutions, and hundreds of country radio stations. Williams faces pressure from executives in WME’s Beverly Hills corporate office, because Black A-list clients are lobbying the agency to drop the enormously popular Wallen from the WME client roster. In this A case, Williams considers several complicating factors: (1) Dropping Wallen would hurt WME’s bottom line, which was already damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Williams does not want to be responsible for more layoffs. (2) The social justice movement from the summer of 2020 is still fresh in Williams’s mind, and he knows that companies like WME need to take swift action after a racially charged incident or risk public backlash. (3) Wallen’s agent is Austin Neal, the son of a WME partner, and forcing Neal to drop Wallen could permanently damage the company’s relationship with this rapidly rising agent. (4) WME’s parent company is preparing for an IPO, so there is extra pressure for the Nashville office’s finances to look good, as well as to avoid controversy. This case set can be applied to a range of relevant topics: ethical decision-making, corporate responsibility, cancel culture, business and political polarization, employee (talent) representation, public relations and scandal management, and leadership.



Learning Objectives

(1) Introduce an increasingly common business risk: the people you associate with. (2) Practice making ethical arguments and justifying difficult choices. (3) Build skills around having difficult conversations.


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  • Overview

    Jay Williams, cohead of the Nashville office of the William Morris Endeavor (WME), must decide how to respond to an incident involving Morgan Wallen, one of the talent agency’s fastest-rising country music stars. Wallen, a white singer, was caught on home security footage using an ethnic slur with a group of white friends after a night of drinking. The following day, the footage was released to the public, and Wallen was swiftly disavowed by his record company, the two largest country music institutions, and hundreds of country radio stations. Williams faces pressure from executives in WME’s Beverly Hills corporate office, because Black A-list clients are lobbying the agency to drop the enormously popular Wallen from the WME client roster. In this A case, Williams considers several complicating factors: (1) Dropping Wallen would hurt WME’s bottom line, which was already damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Williams does not want to be responsible for more layoffs. (2) The social justice movement from the summer of 2020 is still fresh in Williams’s mind, and he knows that companies like WME need to take swift action after a racially charged incident or risk public backlash. (3) Wallen’s agent is Austin Neal, the son of a WME partner, and forcing Neal to drop Wallen could permanently damage the company’s relationship with this rapidly rising agent. (4) WME’s parent company is preparing for an IPO, so there is extra pressure for the Nashville office’s finances to look good, as well as to avoid controversy. This case set can be applied to a range of relevant topics: ethical decision-making, corporate responsibility, cancel culture, business and political polarization, employee (talent) representation, public relations and scandal management, and leadership.

  • Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    (1) Introduce an increasingly common business risk: the people you associate with. (2) Practice making ethical arguments and justifying difficult choices. (3) Build skills around having difficult conversations.