Acquisition creates a new L.A. rival for CAA
The acquisition of IMG by William Morris Endeavor shifts the center of the sports industry from New York to Los Angeles where Creative Artists Agency, Wasserman Media Group and now WME-IMG are headquartered. It also sets the stage for a more heated rivalry between entertainment industry competitors CAA and WME.
“This creates instant credibility in sports for WME and a two-horse race with CAA as the leading entity to harness the power of sports and entertainment for their clients,” said Michael Neuman, managing partner at Scout Sports & Entertainment.
With a powerful position in Hollywood, CAA jumped into the sports business in 2006. It now employs more than 150 people in sports and represents more than 800 athletes and coaches. CAA Sports’ agents include NFL heavyweights Tom Condon and Ben Dogra, baseball agent Brodie Van Wagenen and Olympics agent Lowell Taub.
Condon is a former IMG agent and was part of a host of agents who left the company following Forstmann Little’s acquisition of IMG. Under Chairman Ted Forstmann, IMG moved out of the talent representation business. It still represents Danica Patrick, Novak Djokovic, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and Peyton Manning (for marketing), among others, but its roster is much smaller than it used to be.
WME wants to push back into the talent representation business. Jill Smoller, who heads WME’s sports group, already works with Serena Williams, Kevin Garnett and others. WME co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell want to expand that roster in the months and years ahead. Doing so will escalate their competition with CAA, which has taken a lead in that area of the sports business.
“These big agencies — CAA, William Morris, WMG, Excel — will be battling it out galactically for the big stars, the way ICM, CAA and [William] Morris battle it out in Hollywood for the big acting and directing talent,” said David Falk, a former chairman of SFX Sports Group.
Staff writer Terry Lefton contributed to this report.