As Agency Investments Heat Up, ICM Partners Takes Private Equity Money

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ICM Partners

Crestview's ICM stake — one-third for $150 million — puts the agency's valuation at $450 million.

ICM Partners is getting in business with private equity, becoming the latest Hollywood talent agency to do so.

In bringing aboard New York-based Crestview Partners as a "strategic investor," the agency joins CAA and WME — which have been majority owned by TPG Capital and Silver Lake Partners, respectively, since 2014 — and UTA, which sold an equity stake to PSP Investments and Investcorp in August 2018.

Crestview's ICM stake — one-third for $150 million — puts the agency's valuation at $450 million, far below WME parent Endeavor, which was aiming for an $8 billion valuation in its shelved IPO this fall, as well as CAA, which The Hollywood Reporter estimated in April is worth about $2.5 billion.

Sources say that outside investors' stake in UTA is just under 40 percent for around $200 million, which pegs its value at about $500 million.

Unlike those three agencies, which have stated that diversification is a key goal of their strategic growth, ICM emphasizes that it will remain solely focused on talent representation.

"We are confident that ICM is well positioned for further success in this industry," Crestview head of media Brian Cassidy said in the Dec. 16 announcement of the deal.

That means that ICM will spend its cash infusion on acquiring other agencies instead of other types of businesses; over the past couple of years it already has absorbed publishing-centric The Sagalyn Agency, broadcast-focused Headline Media News and speakers firm The Royce Carlton Agency.

More specialized boutiques can be expected, as well as expansion in the U.K. and the rest of Europe, a source tells THR. Not in the works: majority ownership by private equity or content production, says managing director Chris Silbermann.

ICM has stayed away from private equity since 2012, when it bought out owner Rizvi Traverse, but observers have noted that accelerated growth among the firms at the top has necessitated outside backing to keep pace.

"This is a time of completely unprecedented change," Silbermann says. "The thing that's not going away is the scarcity of great talent, and we wanted to have the maximum backing and the strongest structure to pursue significant opportunities for our clients." 

This story first appeared in the Dec. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.