WME-IMG Taps NBA Exec as CEO of China Subsidiary

Beijing Getty - H 2016
Courtesy of Getty Images

Beijing-based Michael Ma will lead WME-IMG China, founded in June by an investment group led by Sequoia Capital China.

WME-IMG has tapped a veteran NBA executive with China experience to lead its Chinese subsidiary.

Michael Ma, who has spent the past 13 years developing the league's presence in the country, will serve as CEO of WME-IMG China, the venture launched in June with investments led by Sequoia Capital China and also including Tencent, FountainVest Partners and Focus Media.

"Michael brings not only a deep knowledge of the Chinese market, but also incredible experience in cultivating brands within China through his work with the NBA," said WME-IMG co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell in a joint statement. "We're looking forward to working alongside Michael to expand our current business in China while creating new opportunities for our clients and partners in one of our fastest growing markets."

IMG has operated in the country for decades. Today, the combined agency represents elite athletes like women's tennis star Li Na and media rights for such entities as the Chinese Super League as well as manages and/or operates sports, fashion and mass participation events including the Shenzhen Open and Shenzhen Fashion Week, WGC HSBC Champions, the Color Run and Tough Mudder. WME-IMG also operates a joint venture with CCTV to develop and promote sporting events and advises various tourism, sports, corporate and event authorities in the country. WME-IMG China will seek to advance the agency's growth in the country via these existing initiatives as well as new opportunities with its other properties, such as the recently acquired UFC.

"Michael will provide great leadership to the WME-IMG team in China as they look to grow the company's footprint there," said Sequoia Capital China founding and managing partner Neil Shen in a statement. "Sequoia Capital China is excited to draw on our knowledge of the market to lend support and to help accelerate this growth."

Added FountainVest partner and managing director George Chuang in a statement, "Along with Focus Media, our partner in this investment, FountainVest is looking forward to working with Michael and the WME-IMG team to identify new and exciting ways to reach consumers through sports and entertainment."