IMG's Sports Ventures In India Are Key Element In Pitch To Prospective Suitors
The friendship between late IMG CEO Ted Forstmann and India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, "was the foundation for a joint venture with ambitious plans to develop football and basketball in India," according to Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson of the FINANCIAL TIMES. That venture "is now core to the emerging market growth story" private equity group Forstmann Little "will pitch to potential buyers" as it considers a sale of IMG that could value the sports, fashion and entertainment marketing agency at $2B or more. IMG CEO & Chair Mike Dolan said that "he has little insight into Forstmann Little's strategic review," but he said IMG is "a unique company" for its diverse and increasingly int'l collection of deals with athletes such as Novak Djokovic, singers including Taylor Swift, models such as Heidi Klum and various leagues, franchises and events. Much as when Mark McCormack founded IMG by signing golf legend Arnold Palmer in '60, "the core of its value is sport." Sport is the centerpiece of IMG's ambitions from China to sub-Saharan Africa. To that end, "IMG has struck four joint ventures in three years: with Reliance in India, with state broadcaster CCTV in China, with Eike Batista’s EBX in Brazil, and with Dogus, the private conglomerate, in Turkey." Under a '10 deal with the All India Football Federation, IMG Reliance "acquired all commercial rights to football in India for 15 years." Dolan "acknowledges the challenge of pushing football and basketball in a nation obsessed with cricket." While 95% of Indians over 45 cite cricket as their favorite sport, the figure drops to 50% "among those under 20." Dolan would not disclose financial details, but described the football investment as "very attractive on the most conservative assumption you can imagine" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 4/9).