WME Buys IMG

Talent, entertainment and media company William Morris Endeavor Entertainment and technology investing firm Silver Lake have acquired IMG Worldwide, creating the largest talent agency in the world.

A market leader in college and professional sports, event management, client representation, fashion and multi-media rights management, IMG is also the world’s largest licensing agency with licensed merchandise retail sales totaling $8.1 billion worldwide in 2012, according to License! Global’s annual Top Agencies list, which was published in May. Among IMG Licensing’s clients are Ferrari, the PGA Tour, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Arnold Palmer, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Rolling Stone and Manchester United.

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IMG’s licensing division, which includes the Collegiate Licensing Company and Licensing Partners International, is only one piece of the talent agency, which also handles college and professional sports, event management, client representation and fashion and multi-media rights management.

While WME doesn’t have a designated licensing division, it does represent more than 5,000 entertainment, sports and corporate entities including Psy, Deadmau5, Lynyrd Skynard, Star Wars: In Concert.

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed, but WME’s co-CEOs, Patrick Whitesell and Ariel Emanuel, will serve as co-chief executive officers of the combined company.

The combination of WME and IMG creates a unique global sports and entertainment platform that will operate across North America, Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.

"IMG has incredible strategic value to WME. The brand's global reach, outstanding management team and leadership across sports, fashion and media are a strong complement to our business," said Whitesell and Emanuel in a joint statement. "We are honored to build on the legacy of founder Mark McCormack and recent owner Ted Forstmann. Supported by Silver Lake's continued partnership, WME and IMG together will deliver a broad range of opportunities and resources to the companies and talent we collectively represent."

"IMG is well positioned in large and expanding end markets, with significant and untapped potential for growth. We look forward to building on IMG's illustrious heritage by accelerating its existing growth plans and expanding the company's digital platform," says Egon Durban, managing partner of Silver Lake. "This investment extends our successful partnership with Ari, Patrick and the WME team as the company continues its transformation into an integrated player across the new media landscape."

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