UPDATED: CAA has made it official, this blockbuster deal we have chased all weekend. Find release below the original Deadline scoop.
EXCLUSIVE: Creative Artists Agency is acquiring ICM Partners, a mammoth deal that would be the biggest joining forces of two major agencies since WMA and Endeavor. Expectation is that the deal will be completed before the year is out.
Many details need to be worked out, as this came together lightning quick. There will surely be reaction from guilds and on antitrust matters. But in a moment where content creators are getting bigger in M&A deals, why not agencies? The intention here is, after all of the drama of the pandemic and the ending of the packaging business after a prolonged dispute with the WGA, CAA is doubling down on its commitment to the representation business. That includes not only film and television, but also sports, publishing and ancillary businesses. The union of these agencies would bring its collective strengths and manpower together to make for more viable talent representation at a time when studio-owning conglomerates are leaning heavily into streaming as the future of entertainment consumption. While theatrical moviegoing will always be part of the equation, a streaming future means that it is incumbent on agencies and the talent they rep to make as much upfront as possible, because there often will not be the box office bonuses and break-even gross deals that made movie stardom so lucrative.
As was seen in the ongoing lawsuit between CAA-repped star Scarlett Johansson and Disney over the diminished returns after the studio released the movie on a premium tier of Disney+ as well as theatrical, and as was the case when WarnerMedia put its entire 2021 film slate for simultaneous release on its streaming service HBO Max, talent and their reps have no say in distribution platform switches. But artists certainly have found increased leverage by being part of agency-generated packages that appeal to both studios and streamers because these are ready-to-go films. Humungous artist paydays have resulted with packages like the Netflix deal for two Knives Out sequels that reached north of $450 million; to the $130 million-ish deal that Apple made for the Will Smith-Antoine Fuqua drama Emancipation; to the recent deal where Christopher Nolan chose Universal as a new home to make his next film, about physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and his role in perfecting the A-bomb during World War II.
While CAA and ICM find themselves in comparable businesses, ICM can bring much to the table here, from its powerhouse publishing business to its expansion into global sports with its acquisition last year of the London-based sports agency Stellar Group, a stronghold of soccer player clients in leagues all over the world. The current ICM Partners is a result of M&As after Jeff Berg and Rizvi Traverse were bought out and took many legacy TV packages with them.
M&As have always played an important role in ICM, formed in 1975 through the merger of Creative Management Associates and International Famous Agency. ICM’s 2006 acquisition of boutique literary agency Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann brought on the agency’s current leadership, CEO Chris Silbermann and managing director Ted Chervin, as well as the bulk of ICM Partners’ TV lit department whose client list includes top showrunners Shonda Rhimes, Ted Lasso’s Bill Lawrence, Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan, The Good Doctor’s David Shore and The Handmaid’s Tale’s Bruce Miller.
Following the December 2019 sale of a one-third equity stake to Crestview Partners for $150 million to fund international growth, ICM Partners has been on an acquisition spree that has made it a force in athlete representation in sports to complement its strength in TV lit and publishing. Starting with the acquisition of music-focused London-based Primary Talent International in March 2020 and the pickup of a significant minority stake in the Stockholm, Sweden-based boutique lit agency Albatros in August 2020, ICM Partners made its biggest acquisition last October with London-based powerhouse soccer and sports agency Stellar Group, which represents more than 800 athletes, to establish ICM Stellar Sports. This past July, the new sports division made its first acquisition with the purchase of Select Sports Group, an indie agency that reps NFL coaches, players and executives.
Here’s the full release about today’s news:
CREATIVE ARTISTS AGENCY TO ACQUIRE ICM PARTNERS
Combination to Create New Opportunities for Clients Across the Globe
LOS ANGELES (September 27, 2021) – Leading entertainment and sports agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA) announced today the execution of a definitive agreement to acquire ICM Partners (ICM), one of the world’s premier entertainment and sports agencies, to drive broader and more inclusive representation as their clients, their work, and their brands shape culture.
“Today’s storytellers, athletes, thought-leaders, and trend-setters who can move, inspire, and attract large, global audiences have unprecedented opportunity and ability to achieve their goals and aspirations,” said CAA’s Bryan Lourd, Kevin Huvane, and Richard Lovett. “The strategic combination of CAA and ICM bolsters our collective resources, expertise, and relationships to deliver even more opportunities for our world-class clients to build their careers and their brands across multiple disciplines and platforms in an evolving marketplace. Our strong financial position enables us to continue to expand and diversify our businesses, with service and representation remaining central to what we do and who we are. We’re fortunate to have a partner in ICM who shares our commitment to the widest and most inclusive vision possible for what our clients and company can accomplish together.”
“We’re thrilled to partner and combine forces with the talented CAA team,” said ICM’s Chris Silbermann, who will join CAA’s shareholder board. “Together, we will build upon our accomplishments and entrepreneurial spirit, and continue to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to the best interests of our clients, as well as empowering new, diverse voices within the industry.”
The complementary combination of CAA and ICM will create deeper, broader, and more competitive opportunities for clients in the ever-evolving entertainment, media, and sports landscapes. ICM brings to CAA a global roster of artists in film, television, music, comedy, theater, games, politics, and podcasting. ICM’s industry-leading books division superbly complements CAA’s content-driven motion pictures, television, and podcasting businesses, in addition to its speakers arm, and other divisions. Further, ICM’s London-based ICM Stellar Sports, serves more than 800 clients around the globe and maintains offices in 10 countries.
CAA is a leading entertainment, media, and sports enterprise, with global expertise in motion pictures, television, music, sports, theater, digital media, publishing, endorsements, media finance, consumer investing, fashion, podcasting, speaking, games, and philanthropy. Led by a world-class management team and distinguished by its culture of collaboration and exceptional client service, CAA’s diverse workforce identifies and innovates opportunities for the people and organizations that shape culture and inspire the world. CAA was the first entertainment talent agency to build a sports business, create an investment bank, launch a venture fund, found technology start-up companies, and establish a business in China, among other industry innovations. A subsidiary of CAA, Entertainment Benefits Group (EBG) is a leader in corporate entertainment and travel, with more than 40,000 clients and 60 million users. Founded in 1975, CAA is headquartered in Los Angeles, and has a significant presence in New York, Nashville, London, Beijing, and Shanghai, as well as offices in Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Geneva, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Memphis, Miami, Munich, Orlando, Stockholm, and Toronto, among other locations globally. For more information, please visit http://www.caa.com.
ICM is one of the world’s premier entertainment, media, sports agencies, dedicated to the global representation of artists, content creators, broadcasters, authors, artisans, journalists, and athletes in film, television, sports, publishing, theater, music, live performance, podcasting, branding, endorsements, product placements, sponsorship, commercials, broadcasting, speaking, and politics. Originally founded in 1975 as International Creative Management, then rebranded as ICM Partners in 2012, ICM has the expertise and influence of a legacy agency, and an entrepreneurial innovative spirit dedicated to serving its clients across the globe with passion and distinction. ICM has offices in Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., and London, and strategic partnerships in Europe, Asia, and beyond. For more information, please visit http://www.icmpartners.com.
The transaction is expected to close later this year, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including the receipt of regulatory approvals. Financial terms were not disclosed.