IMG Worldwide acquired by WME-Silver Lake for $2.3 bn

MUMBAI: The curtains have finally fallen on an acquisition which was in the news for quite some time now. Private investment firm Forstmann Little & Co has agreed to sell global sports, fashion and media business IMG Worldwide to US-based William Morris Endeavour  Entertainment (WME) and its stakeholder Silver Lake Partners at a price tag of around $2.3 billion.

The final bidders CVC Capital and Chernin Entertainment and a consortium of ICM Partners and the Carlyle Group, bid less than $1.8 billion, thus losing out to WME.

WME is a leading US-based entertainment and media company with an unparalleled client list of artists and content creators across film, television, music, literature, theatre and digital media and is led by co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell.

It was formed by the 2009 merger of the William Morris Agency and Endeavor. The company has over 1,000 employees and is headquartered in Beverly Hills, with offices in New York, Nashville, London and Miami. Through its partner companies, including award-winning global creative agency Droga5, WME also provides clients with unique advertising, brand integration and marketing opportunities across traditional, social media, mobile and gaming platforms. Amongst the big names it represents figure: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Adam Sandler, Christopher Nolan, Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey and Seth MacFarlane.

IMG on the other hand has 3,500 employees and tremendous strengths in the sports business – representation, marketing, production and distribution – apart from representing 500 athletes, models and entertainers as clients. Among the names figure: Gisele Bundchen, Novak Djokovic, Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake.

IMG owns IMG College, the leader in collegiate marketing, licensing and media rights  (it handles marketing and ticketing for 200 collegiate sports properties). It is slated to generate revenue of about $375 million and operating income of $75 million.

The group has joint ventures like IMG Reliance, IMX, IMG CCTV and IMG Dolu in the emerging markets of India, Brazil, China and Turkey. Additionally, IMG Media is the world's largest independent producer and distributor of sports programming. Its IMG Reliance joint venture promotes the All-India Football Federation.

IMG Events and Federations owns and manages some of the most sought after events and includes long standing associations with the world's most important sports organisations, leagues, and federations. IMG Fashion owns and operates fashion events around the world and IMG Models represents the world's top models and leading designers. IMG Art+Commerce represents the most influential photographers, art directors and stylists.

Silver Lake, on the other hand, is a global leader in private investments in technology and technology-enabled industries. The firm has offices in New York, Menlo Park, San Mateo, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo and has approximately $20 billion in combined assets under management. The Silver Lake Partners portfolio includes or has included technology and technology-enabled industry leaders such as Alibaba, Allyes, Ameritrade, Avago, Business Objects, Dell, Flextronics, Gartner, Gerson Lehrman Group, Global Blue, Go Daddy, Instinet, Intelsat, Interactive Data Corporation, MCI, Mercury Payment Systems, MultiPlan, the NASDAQ OMX Group, NetScout, NXP, Sabre, Seagate Technology, Skype, Spreadtrum, SunGard Data Systems, UGS, Vantage Data Centers, Virtu and William Morris Endeavor.

IMG was created by McCormack and golfer Arnold Palmer in 1960. Forstmann Little purchased it a year after McCormack died in 2003, and then Forstmann Little founder Theodore Forstmann died in 2011.

With the acquisition of IMG Worlwide, WME has now leaped ahead of its once larger rival the Creative Artistes Agency.

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