Ford Models purchase of Aria Talent creates city's biggest talent agency

Former Aria co-owner Marie Anderson is now general manager of the new agency.

When Ford Models’ bookers tried to woo away her models last April, Aria co-owner Marie Anderson picked up the phone and called Ford’s COO in New York. That led to a discussion over breakfast about Ford buying Aria, a deal concluded in September.

Now known as Ford Models and Aria Talent, the consolidated company is the city’s largest talent agency. Owner is new Ford COO, John Caplan, who runs Ford Worldwide. Sale price was not disclosed.

The merger has created a company of 20 employees, six from Ford, located in Aria’s 5,000-sq. ft. loft space in the West Loop. Aria Talent books adults and children for TV/film and Ford books all fashion assignments, hair, make-up and clothing stylists.

Calling the sale “fantastic,” Anderson said, “I enabled my employees to increase their income potential and the models division has doubled its client base.”

Anderson is the general manager of the merged company and her partner, Mary Boncher, is in charge of accounting. Third partner, David Kronfeld, who bought 60% of Aria three years ago, has retired from the agency.

Ford Models came into the market five years ago through the purchase of David & Lee Talent Agency, following the deaths of the founders, David and Lee Whitfield.

Aria was formed in January, 1992 by Marie Anderson and Mary Boncher. After leaving Elite as a booker, Anderson started a solo company called Models Future. One of her clients was Boncher’s Model & Management company.

When Anderson told Boncher she missed the agency business, Boncher immediately brought her into the business as a partner. What Anderson brought to the business was her expertise in fashion. “I have an amazing staff and we grew as a result of working hard,” she said.

In 1999, Aria bought Suzanne’s A-Plus models’ agency from owner Suzanne Johnson, who gave Aria its runway division, run by Nancy Tennecott, and long-time staffers Katherine Tenewitz and Bob Schroeder. (Johnson is now retired.) Three years ago, Kronfeld bought the controlling interest in Aria with the goal of international expansion. It was achieved “when he sold to Ford,” Anderson said.

Ford Models & Aria Talent is located at 1017 W. Washington; phone, 312/243-9400.

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