Stellar Group represents more than 800 athletes, most of them soccer players in addition to NFL players. The agency has about 130 employees spread among offices in the U.K. as well as Boston and Atlanta, Germany, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Denmark and other countries.
The deal will create ICM Stellar Sports, which will be run by executive chairman Jonathan Barnett and David Manasseh, who co-founded Stellar in 1992. ICM Partners veteran Ted Chervin will serve as chairman of the sports agency with a mandate to help grow its sports roster in North America and to drive business for new and existing ICM clients thanks to new-found heft in the sports world.
The entertainment business landscape has recently seen a wave of NBA and NFL players set up content production pacts with major studios, capitalizing on their own social media-enhanced brands. But the expansion into sports has been an expensive gamble for CAA and WME during the past two decades. ICM is banking on a revved up content marketplace that has made factories out of personalities such as the NBA’s Steph Curry and LeBron James.
“Aligning our wonderful and talented entertainment clients with Stellar’s premiere athletes is a powerful combination,” said ICM Partners CEO Chris Silbermann. “Together we will be even better positioned to maximize this convergence and generate tremendous creative opportunities and financial upside for our global client base. In Jonathan Barnett, David Manasseh and the Stellar Group we have found the perfect partners and together we look forward to advancing our clients’ aspirations across the world.”
The ICM-Stellar deal involves cash and equity, although financial terms were not revealed. ICM’s purchase of Stellar Group reflects the sale of a one-third stake in the agency in December to private equity firm Crestview Partners. At the time, agency chiefs cited international expansion as a priority plan for putting the influx of investment capital to use.
“In Chris Silbermann and ICM Partners we have found the ideal partner to help our clients further their earning potential in an ever flattening world where athletes are brands with global appeal across numerous off the field revenue streams, which ICM will help us cultivate and exploit,” Barnett said. “They share our enthusiasm to enrich our client’s opportunities as well as expand our North American representation business, which is very exciting for us.”
For Chervin, the Stellar pact is a case of life imitating art. His longtime showrunner client Bill Lawrence is a creator of the new Apple Plus comedy series “Ted Lasso,” starring Jason Sudeikis as a clueless American football coach who suddenly becomes manager of an elite Premier League London soccer club. Chervin has steered ICM’s foray into broadcast TV, including sportscasters, and unscripted production, also a natural fit with sports personalities.
“Jonathan Barnett, David Manasseh and Stellar Group sit at the top of the global sports representation business,” Chervin said. “They have everything we were looking for in a sports agency partner, a wealth of tremendous clients, a first class culture and a kindred entrepreneurial spirit that will allow us to grow both organically through deeper representation of their world class athletes, expansion of their NFL representation business and strategic acquisitions.”
Joining the new sports wing from ICM is Jonathan Perelman, who previously headed the agency’s speakers bureau and its digital department. He’ll serve as president of ICM Stellar Sports. Joshua Barnett, a 12-year Stellar Group veteran, will be managing director.
Stellar Group is ICM’s third agency transaction in Europe this year, following deals with UK music agency Primary Talent International and Stockholm-based lit boutique Albatross.
Stellar Group shareholders were repped by Chris Treneman and Omar Ismail at Investec Bank Plc.