SBD/December 19, 2013/Finance

WME's Emanuel, Whitesell Get To Work At IMG As Industry Weighs Impact Of Acquisition

William Morris Endeavor co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell were "spotted making the rounds Wednesday at IMG Models -- as well as at IMG-owned division Art + Commerce, which reps fashion fotogs Steven Meisel and Patrick Demarchelier, among others," according to the N.Y. POST's Page Six (N.Y. POST, 12/19). Meanwhile, VARIETY's Cynthia Littleton wrote WME with the IMG deal "suddenly gets a whole lot bigger -- larger in size and international scope than its foremost rival" in CAA. WME's goal over the long term is "likely that IMG's earnings bolster the combined enterprise, and IMG's depth in marketing services, corporate connections and international savvy will lead to all manner of innovative opportunities for WME clients as well as IMG's." There "may well be challenges ahead in terms of melding cultures." WME is "known for its formidable team spirit that stretches across departments and disciplines," while IMG is "said to be run as series of fiefdoms, in part because its business operations are disparate and far-flung." The impact of WME-IMG on Hollywood "will be much discussed." Littleton: "Will CAA make a move to counter WME's growth spurt? Will UTA, ICM Partners or Paradigm feel the urge to expand in other areas? Will more private equity money flow into the talent representation biz?" (VARIETY.com, 12/18).

STRONG & GROWING? In N.Y., Ken Belson reports sources close to WME "believe that IMG's sports offerings fit into the agency's broad focus on entertainment." Sports are "widely seen as having more room to grow than the film and music industries, where Hollywood agents have traditionally reigned." College sports, one of IMG's "largest pursuits, could generate business for some of William Morris's other businesses." That calculation "does not include the untapped opportunities for sports overseas." WME may decide to "sell parts of IMG to help pay for the acquisition, or because they do not fit into the new company's broader profile." It also might "build up the athlete representation business that IMG has been shedding." Belson: "No matter which way it goes, there are unlikely to be any shortcuts, no matter how popular sports is" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/19). Also in N.Y., Abrams & de la Merced write the deal "reflects a shift in how Wall Street has paired up with Hollywood, especially the traditionally clubby world of agencies." While previous generations of financiers "have viewed the talent business as a vanity project, newer deals show that investors are set on remaking the industry, expanding its size and scope." Sources said that CVC Capital and Carlyle Group "each ultimately bid" less than $2B for IMG. IMG for now "will be run separately" from WME, though it will "eventually be merged in some fashion" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/19). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Paul Bond cited sources as saying that bids of less than $1.8B "came in" from CVC, Chernin Entertainment and a "consortium of ICM Partners and the Carlyle Group" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 12/18).

ARI IS GOLD? ESPN.com's Darren Rovell wrote, "The ever-competitive Emanuel had two significant moments in sports in which he exerted his power, although neither worked out particularly well." It was Emanuel's "idea to turn LeBron James' free agency choice in 2010 into the 'The Decision,'" and the "second big move made by Emanuel and his WME team was winning Tim Tebow's marketing rights in March 2012 even though Tebow's contract agents were his competitors at CAA." Tebow "eventually fired WME and hired CAA for his off-the-field work." While the IMG acquisition "might be Emanuel's biggest power play yet, many insiders wonder how it makes much sense considering WME isn't adept in businesses that make IMG the most money." IMG is the "largest independent producer of sports programming in the world," and its "biggest growth engine is its college business" (ESPN.com, 12/18). 
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