WME | IMG To Receive $1B Investment

Silver Lake Partners, which owns a significant stake in WME | IMG, said in a letter to its investors that the Beverly Hills-based talent agency is about to receive a $1B investment from The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Government of Singapore Investment Fund. The company sent out a release today explaining the deal, saying that GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, will join current investors Silver Lake, SoftBank and Fidelity as WME | IMG strategic partners.

This round of investment, as first reported by our sister company Variety, should close mid-month. In the letter, Silver Lake (which has been in invested in the talent agency for a long while) says the investment will allow the buyout of minority partners in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. It also will give WME | IMG’s senior management and investors access to cash and provide for acquisitions.

A consortium led by WME | IMG acquired UFC — the world’s leading mixed martial arts (MMA) franchise — for $4B last year. Larger investors in the deal included Michael Dell’s MSD Capital, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Silver Lake but the minority stakeholders (with 10% each) had been the Abu Dhabi government-owned Flash Entertainment, UFC president Dana White and Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta (who founded UFC).

UFC was bought by Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta a quarter of a century ago. The brothers had controlled an 80% stake in the company. They will retain a minority stake moving forward under the terms of the new deal.

Other minority shareholders with 10% each had been the Abu Dhabi government-owned Flash Entertainment as well as another 10% stake for UFC president Dana White.

“Half of our business is representation and half is things that we own,” WME co-head Ari Emanuel said at Cannes this year. “The things we represent we try to expand globally.” The UFC now has “a global organization to help them… We do 900 events and 35,000 concerts a year. We have offices in almost every country. How we then take that and do a complement to all those businesses as a digital offering is our big challenge into the future.”

Emanuel revealed that WME | IMG’s marketing and advertising business has profits of about $150M.

Silver Lake is the biggest shareholder in WME | IMG. It invested $200M for a 31% stake in 2012 and raised its stake to $750M after the acquisition of IMG. In 2014, WME co-heads Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell bought leading sports agency IMG for $2.4B. In March, Japan’s Softbank invested $250 million in WME | IMG, valuing the talent and sports agency at $5.5 billion.

WME | IMG in 2015 acquired Professional Bull Riders for an estimated $100M and the Miss Universe pageant. In 2016, WME | IMG and a consortium led by venture capital and private equity firm Sequoia Capital China unveiled a new China-based joint venture. So the agency has continued to branch out through acquisitions.

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