×

Ari Emanuel Slams CAA as ‘Stuck in the 90s,’ Talks WME/IMG Performance

WME/IMG is focused on broadening its asset base and expanding IMG’s ownership of content, co-CEO Ari Emanuel said Monday at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo.

He also took a swipe at CAA, asserting that WME’s rival is “still stuck in the 1990s” and that he no longer sees them as a fierce competitor. “I compete with them on three things. I kind of think about them a third of the time – ish,” Emanuel said when asked to comment on the recent round of agent defections out of CAA.

IMG’s financial performance is pacing 12 to 18 months ahead of the financial projections laid out after its 2014 acquisition by WME, Emanuel said during the joint interview held with his brother, Chicago Mayer Rahm Emanuel.

“We’re in great shape right now. We’re ahead of the plan by at least 12 to 18 months,” Ari Emanuel said. “We will hit every number, we will exceed every number that was planned.”

Emanuel was pressed by moderator Adam Lashinsky of Fortune about the steep $2.4 billion pricetag that WME paid for IMG and his vision for growing the company. Emanuel said there’s a big focus on balancing IMG’s representation business with ownership and distribution of content.

“When we started with the business (IMG) was 70% representation and 30% in ownership of assets,” Emanuel said. “We’re going to shift that about 5% to 10%. Buying businesses that we can own and operate as opposed to represent is crucial to how we’re going to create the mix of things we do.”

Emanuel was noncommittal on the possibility of an IPO when pressed by Lashinsky.

“That’s probably an option,” he said. “I’m not thinking about it. All I’m doing is operating the business.”

The initial work that needed to be done at IMG after the acquisition was to break down the company’s many silos and encourage them to work collaboratively — in the same fashion as WME’s famously teamwork-oriented culture. That inevitably meant some shakeups among the staff and streamlining of redundant departments with WME.

“We’re ahead of schedule as it relates to the culture and people adapting to the new changes,” he said.

Adding IMG to the mix has vastly broaden the size and scale of WME/IMG, making it an attractive partner for advertisers with its activity in sports, fashion and food events, coupled with WME’s heft in film, TV, music, publishing and digital.

IMG recently inked sponsorship pacts with Visa and Lexus that have a global focus. “Advertisers want to come to our company. We have the ability to deliver on multiple fronts,” he said. “We can help give them perspective about sports on a global basis.”

IMG’s recent acquisition of the Professional Bull Riders is a good example of an entity that will benefit from the WME/IMG and allow the company to build up an asset that it owns outright.

Emanuel said that when he started out as an agent more than 25 years ago, he admired IMG founder Mark McCormack, the legendary MCA mogul Lew Wasserman and CAA co-founder Mike Ovitz. With the union of WME and IMG, financed by the company’s majority owner, Silver Lake, Emanuel feels as though he’s reached the heights of his idols and added the important component of being a player in global advertising deals.

“We’re a unique asset in the changing landscape of entertainment and distribution systems,” he said.

Emanuel was pressed to comment on CAA by Sharon Waxman, CEO and editor-in-chief of the Wrap, who was in the audience. She tried to get Emanuel to confirm that WME was behind the placement of posters in Beverly Hills and Century City in 2013 that needled CAA by adapting the agency’s logo into the phrase “CAANT.” But Emanuel didn’t take that bait.

“I thought it was creative, whoever did it,” he said with a grin.

 

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • YouTube logo

    BBC Studios to Explore 'The Edge of Science' for YouTube Originals

    The BBC’s production division, BBC Studios, has won its first YouTube Originals commission, “The Edge of Science.” Starring presenter and science enthusiast Rick Edwards and YouTuber Colin Furze, “The Edge of Science” will carry out a range of stunts and experiments to explore if it’s possible to levitate. The presenters will meet the scientists behind [...]

  • Kirsten Dunst'On Becoming a God in

    Kirsten Dunst Talks 'Little Women,' 'Interview With a Vampire' Reboots

    Kirsten Dunst was just 11 years old when she skyrocketed into stardom as Claudia in “Interview with a Vampire,” but now Dunst says her age is the only thing keeping her from reprising the role in a hypothetical reboot. “I mean I’m too old, right?,” she told Variety at the premiere of “On Becoming a God [...]

  • A Planned Parenthood clinic is seen,

    Variety to Forgo Annual Emmy Party for Donation to Planned Parenthood

    Variety has decided to make a donation to Planned Parenthood in lieu of hosting this year’s annual Emmy Awards nominees party in partnership with Women In Film. The decision comes in response to Planned Parenthood’s Aug. 19 announcement that it will drop funding over the current administration’s “unethical” rule blocking the organization from discussing its [...]

  • Rebel Wilson Isn't It Romantic

    TV News Roundup: Rebel Wilson to Host First Australian Amazon Original Series

    In today’s TV news roundup, the NFL and Pluto TV announce the launch of a new channel, and Rebel Wilson is named as the host of the first Amazon original series to come out of Australia.  CASTING Rebel Wilson is set to host and executive produce the Australian Amazon original series “LOL: Last One Laughing,” the [...]

  • Moffatt Family with the Himba tribe

    U.K.’s Channel 4 Takes British Family to Africa in New Reality Show

    U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 has greenlit new factual entertainment format “The British Tribe Next Door,” which will see a British family spend four weeks with a remote tribe in Namibia. The twist in this format is that, unlike most adventurers, the participants don’t say goodbye to the comforts of their home — instead, they take them with [...]

  • Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa - The

    'Walking Dead' Star Christian Serratos in Talks for Selena Series at Netflix

    Christian Serratos is in negotiations to star in the upcoming Netflix series based on the life of Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla, Variety has confirmed with sources. The series was announced back in December and is described as a coming of age story following Selena (Serratos) as her dreams come true and all the heart-wrenching [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content