Japanese conglomerate SoftBank has made a $250 million investment in WME-IMG.
The deal values the talent agency and its content and event production operations at about $5.5 billion, according to the Financial Times, which first reported the Softbank investment. The deal gives SoftBank about 8% of the equity in the agency.
“Ari, Patrick and the rest of WME-IMG’s talented management team have a strong record of performance and transformation at the intersection of entertainment, sports and fashion,” said SoftBank director Ron Fisher, who managed the investment process. “We look forward to supporting WME-IMG as it advances the next phase of its growth, further developing and driving its client and content offerings.”
WME-IMG said it would use the coin to pursue new investments, acquisitions and joint ventures. WME-IMG has been on a tear of acquisitions and setting joint venture deals during the past year as it beef up its content and distribution operations as well as event production capabilities, among other assets.
“We’re thrilled to welcome industry leader SoftBank to WME-IMG,” said Ariel Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, WME- IMG co-CEOs. “SoftBank brings a unique industry perspective and a commitment to help us deliver valuable new opportunities to our clients and partners in markets around the world.”
WME teamed with its private equity partner Silver Lake to acquire IMG in late 2013 for about $2.4 billion.
Softbank in 2014 made a $250 million minority investment in Legendary Entertainment, and it has flirted with acquisitions of other showbiz assets in recent years including DreamWorks Animation.
The investment from Softbank and the valuation could be important for WME-IMG down the road as it pursues the possibility of an initial public offering.
In addition to WME-IMG’s large roster of clients, IMG produces dozens of fashion events, culinary festivals and sporting events around the world. It is also growing its reach in the world of film, TV and digital entertainment content.