NEW YORK, United States — Fashion’s first super-agency is losing its kingfish.
Great Bowery chief executive Matthew Moneypenny is exiting the agency, effective immediately, BoF has learned. An email was sent to firm partners and high-level staffers on Sunday evening announcing his departure, which is thought to be rooted in disagreements between the executive and his investor, the asset management firm Waddell & Reed.
“Over nearly a decade of hard work and incredible growth, I had the privilege of building a tiny Danish software company into a global powerhouse,” Moneypenny told BoF when reached on Sunday night. “However, due to different visions for the future, it became clear that the time had come to part ways. I am incredibly proud of Great Bowery and the work that my partners and I put into building it.”
A representative for Waddell & Reed could not be reached for comment prior to publication.
Moneypenny remains an investor in the firm, which he founded in 2014 in an effort to bring the same synergies to fashion that Hollywood agencies offer the entertainment industry. Great Bowery’s stable includes Trunk Archive, the image licensing firm where Moneypenny had been chief executive since 2007; Streeters, which represents stylists including Karl Templer and Patti Wilson along with many other image makers; Bernstein & Andriulli, whose roster includes photographers, illustrators and CGI studios; M.A.P, home to photographers including Jamie Hawkesworth, Tyrone Lebon and Dan Martensen; and CLM, or Camilla Lowther Management, which looks after photographers like Josh Olins, Juergen Teller and Tim Walker and stylists such as Katie Grand and Clare Richardson.
“I would like to thank the talented employees of Great Bowery — and the wildly creative artists it represents — for the many wonderful years together,” Moneypenny said. “I will very much miss working with so many inspired people! I am optimistic that whoever replaces me will uphold the company's high standards of taste, service and integrity.”
The news of Moneypenny’s dismissal comes just weeks after Alex Carloss, head of originals at Youtube, left the board, while two more board seats are set to expire imminently. It is thought that the current board will replace Moneypenny with an interim chief executive from Great Bowery’s financial team.
A former Hollywood agent himself, Moneypenny had great ambitions for Great Bowery, whose artists he aimed to turn into executive producers empowered to create a wider breadth of content and product across multiple platforms. “I think we all know what the challenges are to our beloved print industry,” Moneypenny told BoF in 2016. “But the people who make this media and make this content and tell these stories in a fashion and beauty context clearly have opportunities beyond their traditional milieu.”
Moneypenny has faced plenty of competition from the Hollywood establishment. WME-IMG in particular is betting big on fashion, acquiring essential components of the industry’s ecosystem — including the Wall Group and MADE Fashion Week — and launching Lens, a new agency for up-and-coming photographers and filmmakers.
Waddell & Reed, too, has been challenged, as investors continue to favour passive management — or a portfolio that mimics the components of a market index — over active management, where individuals or teams customise a portfolio (offering a human touch).
The Kansas-based firm posted a 40 percent decline in earnings in 2016 — $146.9 million or $1.78 per share, down from $245.5 million or $2.94 per share in 2015 — with assets under management down 23 percent to $80.5 billion.
According to people familiar with the matter, the Waddell & Reed executive managing the relationship with Great Bowery has changed multiple times since the firm’s investment, indicating a culture clash between the firm and the media company.