ICM Partners is expanding into athlete representation in sports. In its latest move in the European marketplace, ICM has acquired London-based powerhouse soccer and sports agency Stellar Group. Financial terms have not been disclosed.
As part of the pact, Stellar Group chairman Jonathan Barnett and co-founder and top European-based agent David Manasseh have signed long-term contracts with ICM and will each become executive chairman of ICM Stellar Sports, tasked with running day-to-day operations. Longtime Stellar Group agent Joshua Barnett will become managing director.
On the ICM side, CEO Chris Silbermann has named top lieutenant, managing director Ted Chervin, chairman of ICM Stellar Sports; Jonathan Perelman, who previously oversaw ICM’s Digital Department and Speakers Bureau, will become president.
All of Stellar Group’s 130 employees will remain and continue to operate the agency, which represents more than 800 athletes under with contracts totaling around $3 billion. Among the marquee names on its roster are Wales captain Gareth Bale; English national team players Jack Grealish from Aston Villa, Mason Mount from Chelsea and Luke Shaw from Manchester United; and Athletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez. Steller’s NFL clients include New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston and New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney.
ICM will use Stellar as a platform to expand into domestic sports. The plan is to do that by growing Stellar’s NFL representation business, bringing in U.S. sports agents and further acquisitions.
The Big 4 agency has been busy on the M&A front since selling a minority stake to Crestview Partners for $150 million at the end of last year. The Stellar deal marks the third by ICM Partners in Europe this year. In August, it took a significant minority stake in the Stockholm, Sweden-based boutique lit agency Albatros, with ICM partner Pete Stone moving to Sweden to spearhead deals. In March, the agency acquired for music-focused London-based Primary Talent International.
The new acquisition will give Stellar Group clients access to a full-service U.S. entertainment agency, while ICM Partners’ clients gain access to world class athletes to partner on developing properties across platforms, including film, TV, podcasting, along with pursuing branding opportunities. ICM already had been brokering deals in areas outside of sports for athletes such as Malcolm Jenkins.
“With connectivity speeding the process, the sports, entertainment, music, media and publishing worlds have converged. Clients have greater opportunities than ever before to be multi-dimensional, multi-media brands,” Silbermann said in making the announcement today. “Aligning our wonderful and talented entertainment clients with Stellar’s premiere athletes is a powerful combination. In Jonathan Barnett, David Manasseh and the Stellar Group we have found the perfect partners and together we look forward to advancing our clients aspirations across the world.”
Stellar Group was founded in 1992 by Barnett and Manasseh in 1992 and now has offices in London, the U.S., Germany, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands and Uruguay. Its shareholders were advised by Chris Treneman and Omar Ismail at Investec Bank Plc.
“In Chris Silbermann and ICM Partners we have found the ideal partner to help our clients further their earning potential in an ever flattening world where athletes are brands with global appeal across numerous off the field revenue streams, which ICM will help us cultivate and exploit,” Barnett said. “They share our enthusiasm to enrich our client’s opportunities as well as expand our North American representation business which is very exciting for us.”
Chervin has connections to sport, having represented sportscasters earlier in his career and having managed prize fighters such as Manny Pacquiao. With Silbermann and him growing and empowering younger agents to take over his previous responsibilities of running ICM’s TV operation, he said he was ready for a new challenge with ICM Stellar Sports.
“Jonathan Barnett, David Manasseh and Stellar Group sit at the top of the global sports representation business,” he said. “They have everything we were looking for in a sports agency partner, a wealth of tremendous clients, a first-class culture and a kindred entrepreneurial spirit that will allow us to grow both organically through deeper representation of their world class athletes, expansion of their NFL representation business and strategic acquisitions.”
Like the rest of the entertainment and media biz, ICM has also been forced to deal with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The agency laid off 40 support staff in June amid the lockdown and cut another 15 or so junior agent and coordinator positions at the end of the summer. The agency recently resumed representing writers after signing a deal with the WGA.
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