WME Sells 31 Percent of Agency to Silicon Valley Investor, Plots Digital Growth

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William Morris Endeavor has made a deal with technology-investment firm Silver Lake, which is taking a 31 percent noncontrolling interest in the agency.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. In October 2010, WME rival Creative Artists Agency sold a 35 percent minority interest to TPG Capital in a deal valued at $500 million.

WME will continue to be managed by eight partners, led by Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell. Silver Lake managing partner Egon Durban will join the agency’s executive committee, along with Emanuel and Whitesell. WME also will create a new Technology Advisory Council that will include outsiders to identify tech-related opportunities.

The top WME partners all have renewed “long-term contracts” with the agency, according to a statement released Wednesday. With talent agencies under pressure as the entertainment industry is buffeted by the digital revolution, that measure is meant to dispel any notion that they are cashing out at the expense of younger agents. Instead, the investment by Silver Lake, which has backed such tech titans as Zynga and Alibaba, is meant to accelerate WME's efforts to identify opportunities in the digital space both for the agency and its clients.

The deal “will accelerate WME’s transformation into a technologically innovative entertainment and media company,” the WME board said in the statement.


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