SBJ/April 8-14, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

IMG sale: Who will bite?

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Forstmann Little is in the process of selecting a bank and plans to open an auction for IMG later this year. The private equity firm, which bought IMG for $750 million in 2004, is looking for more than $2 billion for the sports, fashion and media company. Here’s a look at some of the potential buyers.

The Agencies

CAA

The agency’s push into sports began when it lured away many of IMG’s top agents. Since then, it has bolstered its sales division and added a corporate consulting team. It could benefit by adding some pieces of IMG such as its events, college and media businesses. The agency is supported by the private equity firm TPG Capital.

William Morris Endeavor

After two of Hollywood’s biggest talent agencies merged in 2009, speculation was rampant that the resulting agency would push into sports. But WME’s sports activities have remained modest and limited to representing a handful of athletes. Co-CEO Ari Emanuel could change that immediately by acquiring IMG. The agency is supported by the private equity firm Silver Lake Partners.

Lagardère

The company’s push into sports began in 2006 when it outbid IMG for the European media and marketing agency Sportfive. CEO Arnaud Lagardère spoke with Forstmann about acquiring IMG in 2007, but it’s unclear if he’s still interested in it. Lagardère already carries $2.35 billion in debt.


Wasserman Media Group

The agency hasn’t expressed much interest in buying IMG in the past, but it could still benefit from adding some of IMG’s assets to its portfolio. It received $25 million from Highbridge Capital Management last year to help expand its business through acquisition. But it would need much more than that to make a play for IMG.


MP & Silva

The London-based media rights company has competed against IMG Media for years. It would love nothing more than to complement its representation of the French Open’s media rights with IMG’s representation of Wimbledon. It already has met with IMG.


The Funds

Aurora Capital Group

The Los Angeles-based venture capital fund, which is led by Gerry Parsky, expressed interest in IMG prior to Ted Forstmann’s death, according to Vanity Fair. At the time, it was going to team up with Terry Semel. It’s unclear if it would still partner with Semel or find another partner.


Colony Capital

The California real estate firm was a serious bidder for AEG, but that was largely because of AEG’s real estate interest in Los Angeles and London. IMG doesn’t offer much real estate, so it would be a stretch for it to make a run.


Guggenheim Partners

The financial services firm that put together a jaw-dropping $2 billion deal to acquire the Los Angeles Dodgers made a run at AEG. It could also look at IMG.

Qatar Investment Authority

The sovereign wealth fund behind Qatar Sports Investments considered partnering with Colony Capital on a bid for AEG. The fund, which is run by the Qatari royal family, has shown an appetite for big sports investments, buying the Paris Saint-Germain soccer club for more than $340 million and spending money for Qatar Airways, which it owns, to sponsor FC Barcelona.


The Individuals

Eike Batista

One of Brazil’s wealthiest men partnered with IMG on a joint venture in Brazil called IMX in 2010. The partnership and his friendship with Forstmann gave him insight into the company’s business, and his estimated net worth of $12.7 billion means he could stomach IMG’s projected $2 billion asking price. But his interest may be complicated by troubles at EBX Group, his company, which lost $1.25 billion last year.

Larry Ellison

Oracle’s billionaire founder continues to take more of an interest in sports. He is underwriting much of the cost of this year’s America’s Cup races in San Francisco and recently made his Indian Wells tennis tournament, the BNP Paribas Open, one of the best-paying events on the tour.

Mukesh Ambani

The wealthy Indian’s company, Reliance Industries, partnered with IMG on a joint venture (IMG Reliance) in 2010. Much like Batista, the partnership, friendship with Forstmann and familiarity with IMG’s success in creating the Indian Premier League make him a prime candidate to acquire the company. His net worth is estimated at more than $20 billion.


Ron Burkle

The former grocery store magnate has said publicly that he’s interested in bidding on IMG when an auction begins. His Yucaipa Cos. has invested in everything from Barnes & Noble to Hollywood’s Relativity Media. The latter last year acquired SFX Baseball, Maximum Sports Management and Rogue Sports.

Steven Mnuchin

The former Goldman Sachs executive and hedge fund manager who runs OneWest Bank made a run at AEG.

Terry Semel

The former Yahoo chairman and CEO raised $1.5 billion to buy IMG back in 2008, but Ted Forstmann reportedly rejected the proposal.

Patrick Soon-Shiong

The billionaire surgeon was a major figure in the sale of AEG. Though he came up short in the bidding process, he remains interested in sports and could see IMG as an opportunity to get involved in the business.

The Holding Companies

WPP

Martin Sorrell’s appetite for sports is well-known, but his company’s sports assets are primarily focused on Europe. Adding IMG would give the company a strong position in the U.S. and strengthen its standing in sports overseas. It currently has $1.35 billion in cash and carries $4.2 billion in debt.

Omnicom

The company’s sports agencies — GMR, SportsMark, The Marketing Arm and others — have made great strides in corporate consulting and sales in recent years. IMG would give it a way to push into property representation in college sports and add media rights distribution to its portfolio. It currently has $1.9 billion in cash and carries $4.4 billion in debt.

Interpublic Group

The company already has Octagon and Momentum Worldwide as part of its portfolio. Adding IMG Media and IMG College could help boost its bottom line and take it into new areas in the sports industry. It currently has $1.2 billion in cash and carries $1.6 billion in debt.

— Compiled by Tripp Mickle

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