Raul Mateu, who started out in the William Morris Agency’s rock ‘n’ roll department, is rocking the world of Spanish-language television in the United States.
Now a senior VP at William Morris, Mr. Mateu heads the only Miami-based office of a major U.S. talent agency. Under his direction, the office has seen major growth in its first year of operation. It now represents 40-plus clients and the biggest names in Spanish-language TV, such as Telemundo soccer sportscaster Andres Cantor.
Though only 35, Mr. Mateu has traveled a long road to get where he is. His path is unusual for a major executive at a big U.S. talent agency.
“Back in the mid-’90s, having an agent was not a good thing if you were talent working in Spanish media,” the Venezuelan-born Mr. Mateu said. “The philosophy of Spanish media was that if you had an agent you were ostracized.”
That changed, he said, in 1994, when soccer’s World Cup came to the United States and announcer Andres Cantor achieved instant fame, with recognition from “Late Show With David Letterman” to “Live With Regis and Kathie Lee” for his loud and long calls of “Goal!”
Seeing an opportunity, Mr. Mateu called Mr. Cantor and convinced him to sign with William Morris. Then in 1995 Mr. Mateu scored a groundbreaking deal for Mr. Cantor with Univision.
“That was the first time an agent ever negotiated a contract with Univision,” said Mr. Mateu. “We weren’t treated too kindly. But we had a lot of leverage because he was the big star on the network, and there were many suitors that were interested.”
Mr. Cantor then went on to Telemundo, where he became the first sports personality from Spanish-language TV to work in English during NBC’s Sydney Summer Olympics in 2000. Mr. Cantor credits much of his success to Mr. Mateu.
“He has been an inspiration in my career, not only in the media world but with endorsements. He is very sharp and very clever, and being of Hispanic descent, he has connections in the Hispanic world and the Anglo world. I have nothing but praise for him,” Mr. Cantor said.
Mr. Mateu’s beginnings were in South Florida, where he grew up after his family left Venezuela in 1980. He went to the University of Florida, where he produced entertainment events such as concerts by Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Dennis Miller and George Carlin.
He came to William Morris in 1991, starting in the infamous mailroom training program in New York, then moving to the music department and on to television.
Mr. Mateu continues to break new ground. He recently struck a deal for Giselle Blondet, a popular morning host on Univision’s “Despierta America,” to host a crime-based prime-time reality show-despite Spanish-language networks’ traditional reluctance to shift talent between genres.
When Mr. Mateu left New York, he gave up his own music career, which he says was enjoyable but decidedly unpromising. “My days in the disco band are over,” he said of his experience as a percussionist for the New York-New Jersey band Huggy Bear and the Sweathogs. “I’m not much of a musician,” he said. “The reason I was in a disco band is because the music is very easy to play. If had to play any real music, I couldn’t do it.”