The Hollywood agency and its financial cohort Silver Lake Partners have emerged from a pack of deep-pocketed suitors and are near a deal to acquire talent and management powerhouse IMG Worldwide. Deal figures have been murky during this entire bidding process, but we’re hearing the sale price is around $2 billion. A deal is imminent, we’re told, but no announcement is coming tonight. Other details: IMG, the powerhouse firm that reps athletes and models among several divisions, would function independently under the new structure, but its owners Forstmann Little would have have no equity stake.
If and when this one makes, it will enlarge agency powerhouse WME and put the latest feather in the caps of WME co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, who have been focused on big-picture growth since their Endeavor merged with William Morris in 2009. Since then they have expanded WME’s reach on several fronts including digital, culminating in May 2012 when WME and Silver Lake launched their strategic digital partnership, with the private equity firm acquiring a 31% non-controlling stake in the agency. The long-term strategy: to enlarge WME’s footprint in order to offer clients greater access across all platforms, nationally and internationally, in the search for ever-precious alternate revenue streams.
The IMG deal would immediately boost WME’s sports representation profile to put rival CAA’s sports division in its crosshairs as the two Hollywood giants battle for supremacy on all fronts. It also would give them new clients like IMG-repped NFL star Peyton Manning, tennis star Maria Sharapova and models like Gisele Bundchen. Bloomberg says IMG has 3,500 employees globally in divisions ranging from licensing and sponsorships to marketing and consulting, including running venues and events notably tennis Grand Slam Wimbledon and the World Series of Poker.
Managing Editor Patrick Hipes contributed to this report.