ICM Partners Acquires Stellar Group, Launches Sports Division

ICM-Partners -Jonathan-Barnett-David-Manasseh-and-Ted-Chervin
Courtesy of ICM Partners

Stellar Group's Jonathan Barnett and David Manasseh have signed long-term deals with ICM Partners; ICM's Ted Chervin will be chairman of the new sports division.

The deal gives the Century City-based firm a foothold in the business of player contracts.

ICM Partners is significantly expanding its footprint in the sports representation space.

The Century City-based talent agency is buying the sports management company Stellar Group, the firms said on Thursday. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed but layoffs are not expected, a source familiar with the acquisition says.

As part of the buy, Stellar Group's co-founder and chairman Jonathan Barnett and co-founder David Manasseh have signed what's described as a long-term deal with ICM Partners. The London-based Stellar, founded in 1994, currently totals 130 employees in 10 offices with 800 clients across sports including football, the NFL, cricket, rugby and esports.

Barnett and Manasseh will both hold the title of executive chairman of the newly named ICM Stellar Sports division. Additionally, ICM Partners managing director Ted Chervin will be named chairman of the division with an eye toward growing the sports business in North America. 

Fueled by its first private equity investment last December, when ICM sold a minority stake to Crestview Partners, the talent firm has been in the hunt for acquisitions this year. In March, ICM acquired U.K. music agency Primary Talent International and in August took a stake in Stockholm-based literary agency Albatros.

"In Jonathan Barnett, David Manasseh and the Stellar Group we have found the perfect partners and together we look forward to advancing our clients aspirations across the world," stated ICM Partners CEO Chris Silbermann.

The deal for Stellar will give ICM, which has around 500 employees, a foothold in the representation business for player contracts, a space that other major agencies have increasingly devoted resources to. Days ago, on Oct. 5, NFL agent Ben Renzin left CAA Sports for a role as co-head of WME Sports football group alongside fellow CAA vet Brian Ayrault, who joined WME in September.

CAA expanded its footprint in sports with its acquisition last July of Base Soccer Agency, which, at the time, stated that it repped 300 clients. The same month, UTA took a significant stake in LeBron James' agent Rich Paul's Klutch Sports Group. Paul was added to UTA's board of directors this July and Klutch added NBA agent Omar Wilkes to its ranks this year.

ICM, like most Hollywood businesses, has been hit financially amid the monthslong film and TV production pause earlier this year amid the pandemic. In June, the agency cut 40 staffers while raising assistant pay to $20 an hour and, in August, the firm cut more than a dozen additional staffers and implemented some furloughs, citing the economic downturn due to COVID-19.

In joining ICM, Stellar Group's Barnett said: "In Chris Silbermann and ICM Partners we have found the ideal partner to help our clients further their earning potential in an ever flattening world where athletes are brands with global appeal across numerous off the field revenue streams, which ICM will help us cultivate and exploit.  They share our enthusiasm to enrich our client’s opportunities as well as expand our North American representation business which is very exciting for us."