WME-IMG Takes on Another $1.1 Billion in Outside Money

THR 100 List 2017 - Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell - New - H 2017
Miller Mobley

That investment will put the agency’s value at $6.3 billion, up from its $5.5 billion valuation last year.

WME-IMG is poised to land a major cash infusion.

The super-agency is in final negotiations to receive a $1.1 billion investment led by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and a Singaporean fund, GIC,The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. The deal is expected to close later this month.

"We're thrilled to welcome CPPIB and GIC – two leading global investors – to the WME  IMG family as our newest strategic partners," said co-CEOs Ariel Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell in a joint statement. "We look forward to working with them to continue growing our international footprint and delivering valuable new opportunities to all our clients and partners."

That investment will put the agency’s value at $6.3 billion, up from its $5.5 billion valuation last year. 

Silver Lake Partners, the private equity firm that owns a significant stake in WME-IMG, announced the deal Tuesday in a letter to investors. Silver Lake first bought a 30 percent stake in WME back in 2010. In 2013, the agency and the investment firm unveiled an agreement to acquire IMG Worldwide for $2.4 billion.

"Under the brilliant leadership of Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, WME IMG has transformed both their business and their industry, creating a powerful and highly differentiated global platform," said Egon Durban, Managing Partner of Silver Lake. "We are very excited to welcome CPPIB and GIC as new strategic partners. In addition, we are highly enthusiastic about Silver Lake's decision to extend our investment in WME IMG."

Last year, WME-IMG received a $250 million investment from Japan's SoftBank, followed by a $55 million investment from mutual fund giant Fidelity Management and Research Co.

All of the recently acquired extra cash is expected to help fund the agency's sprawling ambitions, including acquisitions. Since its initial infusion of funds, the agency has bet big on acquiring companies, both at home and abroad, from across the fashion and sports worlds.

A little over a year ago came the agency's largest acquisition to date, where WME-IMG led a $4 billion acquisition of professional fighting organization UFC, partnering with Silver Lake, as well as backers MSD Capital and KKR. Other acquisitions have included Professional Bull Riders for an estimated $100 million and former client Donald Trump's Miss Universe pageant. Looking abroad, WME-IMG also signed a partnership with China web giant Tencent and Sequoia Capital.

When speaking to THR in their first sit-down after acquiring IMG, Emanuel and Whitesell talked about their ambitions for current and future holdings, and how that will fold into their talent agency. Said Whitesell: "We have created the greatest platform of resources for artists, period. Now, you may take advantage of two of the [platforms], one of them, or 15 of them."