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ICM rebuffs rumors of sale or merger

Tenpercentery denies Paradigm deal

After spending a week at the Allen & Co. Sun Valley confab fending off blog rumors that had his agency merging with Paradigm or looking for an outright buyer, ICM chairman-CEO Jeff Berg has decided to address the rumors.

The percentery is flatly denying that it even had merger conversations with Paradigm or that Tom Gores was buying into the company. Also denied is the notion that ICM is on the sales block.

ICM has confirmed that one year after engaging Allen & Co. to explore equity financing opportunities, several promising institutional investors have emerged. If an outside equity owner is invited in for the first time since the agency went private in 1988, the money would be used to grow its core businesses of television, film, publishing and music and to create equity opportunities for rising agents within the company. Recognizing a consolidating marketplace, ICM also would like to bolster its ability to locate global channels of finance and distribution for client-generated product.

It is the first public acknowledgement that an outside investor might become part owner of ICM. Rumors of past equity explorations cropped up several times over recent years, but always fell apart over control issues.

ICM spokesman David Shane has confirmed that “preliminary negotiations with private institutional investors from outside the entertainment business” have taken place, but said there was no timetable for a deal, nor was there certainty that one would happen.

“Any new investment in the business would provide ICM with additional capital for strategic acquisitions within the industry to better serve our clients and for the agency to develop new business opportunities,” Shane said in a statement. “This investment would also provide an opportunity for the next generation of ICM’s leadership to participate in the future success of our business.”

Per Shane, no equity deal would be closed unless the new partner embraces current leadership. That means Berg and senior management will continue to steer the percentery.

“Under any potential investment scenario, Mr. Berg would lead the recapitalization effort internally, as he did in 1992, retain executive control of the agency and reaffirm his long-term commitment,” Shane said.

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