Will Ward founded Fourward, a global management, production, and business development company with offices in Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, and Melbourne in April 2018 with clients such as Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Rush, Avengers, In the Heart of the Sea and most recently Avengers: Infinity War), Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games series, Independence Day: Resurgence), Cobie Smulders (Stumptown, How I Met Your Mother, The Avengers), Luke Bracey (Point Break, Hacksaw Ridge), Aisha Tyler (The Talk, Criminal Minds and Archer) and Alice Braga (Queen of the South) among their acting clients along with artists Elliphant, Abby Anderson, Emma Zander, and others.
Ward began his career as an agent trainee at CAA in Nashville’s music department. Following his stint at CAA, Ward was recruited by WME (Endeavor) to be a motion picture talent agent and worked with Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman, Ryan Reynolds, Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, among others. He eventually established ROAR, where he built the careers of Chris Hemsworth, Zac Brown Band, Cobie Smulders, Aisha Tyler, and more. Ward produced the Warner Bros. film In the Heart of the Sea, directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth, based on The New York Times bestseller.
Ward co-founded and continues to co-own a successful chain of restaurants in New York called Ottos Tacos. Recently, he launched Centr, the successful health, wellness, and fitness app alongside Apple – a partnership between Fourward, Chris Hemsworth, and one of the largest private equity firms in the world, Quadrant. Ward has also partnered and co-invested in several tech deals with some of Silicon Valley’s top CEOs.
Beverly Hills Magazine: So Will, you’re a top Hollywood executive, currently managing clients such as Chris Hemsworth and his brother Liam, Aisha Tyler, Cobie Smulders, as well as musical artists Elliphant, Zac Brown Band, and more… You’ve been a talent agent with WME (Endeavour) CAA, recently exiting the company ROAR, and now you’ve launched your own TV/film/music management, production, and investment company called FOURWARD. Congratulations on all your hard-earned success. What inspired you to become a Hollywood agent and talent manager?
Will Ward: I was going into investment banking originally, and I was two weeks away from graduating when I read an article on Michael Ovitz when he was on the cover of Business Week and it said, “Michael Ovits rules Hollywood and now he makes a play for Madison Ave and Wall St”and I was amazed and thought, “Wait a minute, what? That’s a job???” And that was it. I was dead set on getting in the mail room at CAA, and that’s how I started.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What is the most challenging thing about being an agent & manager in the business?
Will Ward: It’s very cut throat. For us in the agent world, you can’t sleep; you’re watching over your shoulders while trying to grow your clients’ careers because of someone else trying to steal a client, and that is just the nature of the agent world. As a manager, it was challenging to start over, so when I went out to start the management company ROAR, I was building from scratch.
Well, I think there were many challenges along the way; there are many challenges in a business. I was talking to a big producer about the business today, and he looked at me and said, “It’s not just fun anymore’. And I said, “You know, that’s exactly right; it has lost the fun’.
Beverly Hills Magazine: The most rewarding?
Will Ward: There is certainly a reward when you build a client’s career. You will always say, “I dread the day when I get to the top because then you’re spinning plates’. And there were times a couple of clients were really on top of their game. And so the climb is the most rewarding thing for me. It is fun to see someone keep climbing to the top. But you know, now that I think of it, the rewarding thing for me is being able to focus on building some companies to start incubating businesses and then launch I’ve launched this venture capital fund, and that’s alot of fun. That’s the rewarding part to take advantage of the world I’ve grown up in and I’ve built to many rleationships, not just in Hollywood, but Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and being able to pull that all together to do something bigger. That’s the most rewarding part.
Beverly Hills Magazine: That’s right, you’ve just launched Fourward Ventures, your new Venture Capital Investment Fund. You invest in many different spaces, not just media & entertainment. What projects and investments are most exciting to you?
Will Ward: Yeah, we had great success with Centr, the fitness app that Chris Hemsworth and I built together. And it was a big win because we built it, launched it, and sold it less than three years after launch to the Bezos Family Office. And you know, I worked on another big deal with a massive movie star that fell apart after the deal was signed for reasons I won’t get into. Still, it was fortuitous because it created some other opportunities. We are launching a female focused energy drink that I am very excited about. I’m about to announce a partnership with one of the true titans in the spirit industry to do celebrity branded alcohols. And that’s exciting and the VC stuff is great because we are getting so much deal flow, and we have vetted in the past year over 460 companies all within the verticals that fit within our wheelhouse, and we’ve invested in 9. I feel like we have winners in all 9 so I’m very proud of them.
Beverly Hills Magazine: Who or what have been your inspirations?
Will Ward: Michael Ovitz was a huge inspiration to me when I first started the business. I thought he was God. And I think my children are a huge inspiration. I am proud to see my son creating wonderful opportunities, and that inspires me, not just because he’s doing that but because it makes me feel like I did a great job in raising him to be self-sufficient. There’s a lot of other people I look up to.
You know you’ve got to look at Elon Musk and what he has done. That guy has almost gone bankrupt five times and started some very different businesses; that’s brilliant. If you look at it, the mistake he made was buying a business he didn’t start, and it remains a true mistake that will probably go down as a bad move, but I can’t believe what he’s done so far. The Tesla space is pretty incredible.
Beverly Hills Magazine: Yeah well, you’re on a similar trajectory investing in multiple businesses in different industries, and taking risks.
Will Ward: Yeah, but not at that level.
Beverly Hills Magazine: Well, you never know. You gotta start somewhere. What makes your business different from others?
Will Ward: I think our access. We have a track record with the CEOs of other companies. We are the first to go on record and say that the they’ve seen us contribute more than any other VC they’ve worked with, and that’s an excellent way for us to be able to tell our companies like, “Hey, talk to the founders of the other companies we have invested in.” We rarely have had many pushbacks; the only time we couldn’t get in a deal was when I just wasn’t in a position to write a big enough cheque. I was still writing cheques out of my pocket before we raised money, and they wanted a much bigger cheque, but that was all we had. So we sat out on it, and I’m glad we did, because I look back now and the company isn’t doing so well. So that actually worked out for us.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned on your success journey?
Will Ward: If you are going to have success, you are going to get knocked down. You know, I have started over three times to be honest. Actually, like four times now. You know, that’s hard. Some of my family looked at me and said, “What are you doing? Why would you mess with the success you have?” And I wanted to do something different, and I always want to challenge myself — I’m like a case study for ADD…I have to have 10 different things going on at once.
Beverly Hills Magazine: I agree! Me too actually. And that’s perfect for what you’re doing now. You can have momentum in so many different directons. It’s exciting. With so much going on, how do you balance your professional and personal life?
Will Ward: You know, you just figure it out. When I first had children with my ex-wife, she was an agent when I was a manager. We both had big careers, and we figured out and with the children it was about quality time, not quantity of time. And on Father’s Day, I got notes from my kids, and the one line in all of the notes was, “Dad, you always make life such an adventure, and everything is so fun,” And so I felt like that was like the ultimate compliment that they’re not like “I wish I got to see you more often.” I never get that. And then my wife is always with me, we are just always together. I’m sure there were times she would rather I not be on the phone at 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. calling Australia or Dubai. But she’s a real trooper with that too.
Beverly Hills Magazine: If you had to give a piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs out there, what would it be?
Will Ward: You’re gonna get knocked down. You’ve just got to be strong, because you are not going to always win. You will fail sometimes, and that’s just part of being an entrepreneur. It takes a certain mentality. When you’re going to start a new business, it shouldn’t be because it’s just a great idea, but because you have a sense of “I have to do this!”
I was an agent at ENDEAVOUR working with some of the biggest movie stars in the world, and I would wake up in the morning and go to work and be like I don’t want to go to work today. And it was strange, and I was confused, and I thought, “What is going on with me?” And I finally started to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t really love working for other people.
For a while, it was like, “Why don’t I love my job? This is everything I’ve always wanted”. And there came a time when I wasn’t enjoying it as much. I knew I wanted to go out and start my own company before I got into the business, but it really took effect when I was starting to get my career off to a huge start, and then that’s when I hung up being an agent and I went off to start a company from scratch, and that’s where some of my family, especially my mother, was like, “What are you doing?’. And I said, “This is what I got to do,” and I did it, and it worked. So I guess the best advice is to just think outside the box.
If you’re going to have a great company, you better make the best products and services and figure out what differentiates it from what else is out there. Because if it’s just another carbon copy of something that is already being done, then you’re going to have alot harder time explaining to investors and consumers why yours is so great. So you really have to come up with your angle for what you are building.
Beverly Hills Magazine: Absolutely. In hindsight I’ve learned that setbacks are not actually failures. If you can reflect and reassess, they can actually become your biggest stepping stones to your next opportunities, and the launching pads to your next level of success.
Beverly Hills Magazine: If you could have one supernatural superpower, what would it be and why?
Will Ward: It’s funny, I actually thought about this weeks ago and had a good one. I dream that I can fly, and that’s pretty fun. I think to be able to go back in time. You know, to be able to jump time, to go back and come back would be an incredible thing.
Beverly Hills Magazine: That’s a really good one. To be able to go back and maybe change things. That would be very cool. What’s next for FOURWARD, and what can we look forward to?
Will Ward: There’s 3 Fourward’s. There’s Fourward Inc which is the managment side which is scaled down a bit. It’s also an incubation company and I’ll be announcing a partnership very soon in the celebrity alcohol space. Fourward Music, a publishing company and record label, which has some really great clients who we are very excited about, because they have very big careers ahead of them. And also, Fourward Ventures is investing in businesses and we are raising funds, though it hasn’t been the most fun environment to raise money in but it is a great time to be a VC because there’s some really great deals. So we will close Fund 1 around October 2023, and then we will get ready for Fund 2 which will be a much bigger fund.
Beverly Hills Magazine: That is so exciting! Will Ward, I want to thank you so much for your time, and I wish you tremendous success in all your future endeavours.
Will Ward: Thanks so much.