CAA China aims to greatly expand the agency’s activity in the areas of talent representation, film finance, TV and digital content production, and dealmaking involving sports, music, live events, and endorsements. The pact calls for CMC Capital Partners chairman Ruigang Li to join CAA’s board of directors. CAA will be the majority owner of CAA China.
CAA has had a presence in China since 2005. The partnership with a powerhouse local investor is designed to open up more avenues of opportunity for CAA clients, in and outside of the world’s most populous nation.
“We have had a great deal of local success in China, but this is a moment now where we have a best-in-class partner with Li Ruigang,” CAA president Richard Lovett told Variety. “Now we have a local partner who can provide access and resources and capital for our growth. Our ability to serve clients and expand into new markets” is enhanced, Lovett said.
CMC Capital Partners has a broad portfolio of media and entertainment investments in China and elsewhere, including joint ventures with Imax and Warner Bros. in film exhibition and production. CMC hopes that teaming with CAA will build up the pipeline of talent and innovation flowing into the Chinese media and entertainment marketplace overall.
“This partnership will be very significant. A lot of our companies are looking for great connections or access (to talent),” Li told Variety. “In the past few years we have done projects that were a one-off or short-term deals. This is a very strategic long-term partnership. We will add a lot of resources from our two sides to work together.”
CAA’s existing China team will segue to the CAA China operation, including Jonah Greenberg overseeing motion pictures, and Roeg Sutherland, co-head of CAA’s global film finance and sales group, will continue to oversee film financing activity. CAA China intends to add more senior management over time, the partners said.
Lovett emphasized that CAA China’s focus will be on developing content sales and business opportunities for China’s domestic entertainment market as much as it will be on projects and talent that can be exported.
“We feel really fortunate to have a local partner who can help us generate more opportunities that are specifically tailored to the Chinese marketplace,” Lovett said. “We’re very proud of the work we’ve done representing Chinese talent over the last 12 years. This partnership will accelerate opportunities for Chinese talent.”
CAA’s pact with CMC Capital Partners follows the sports and entertainment venture that WME/IMG set up last June with Sequoia Capital China, Internet giant Tencent, and FountainVest Partners. It reflects the continued interest among Western media and entertainment giants in establishing a foothold in the fast-growing market.
“CAA has had a significant impact on the Chinese entertainment marketplace by enabling its clients’ success over the past 12 years,” said Jim Coulter, co-founder of CAA’s majority shareholder, private equity firm TPG. “We are thrilled with the company’s progress and the value-creation CAA has realized for its shareholders since our investment. With CMC as a meaningfully invested partner, and continuing growth in the Chinese market, the potential for CAA China is limitless.”
(Pictured: CMC Capital Partners chairman Li Ruigang)