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IMG also manages sports events such as Wimbledon. Photo: Reuters
IMG also manages sports events such as Wimbledon. Photo: Reuters

Silver Lake, William Morris buy IMG

The companies are paying about $2.4 billion to buy IMG Worldwide from Forstmann Little, say sources

New York: Silver Lake Management Llc and William Morris Endeavor Entertainment Llc agreed to buy IMG Worldwide Inc. creating an agency with top talent cutting across both sports and entertainment.

The companies are paying about $2.4 billion to buy IMG from Forstmann Little & Co., according to a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified as the information is private. The deal was announced today in a statement that didn’t include terms.

William Morris represents some of Hollywood’s biggest actors, directors and writers, including Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

“Adding IMG’s stable of athletes and models, including Peyton Manning and Gisele Bundchen, will create TV and digital opportunities for William Morris," said former Madison Square Garden President Bob Gutkowski ahead of today’s announcement.

“There are certainly content opportunities for William Morris," said Gutkowski, who is now a partner in Lake Success, New York-based Innovative Sports & Entertainment, which advises private equity in sports, entertainment and media company investments. “There are opportunities to build a television arm of IMG."

New York-based IMG also manages fashion and sports events such as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and Wimbledon. Founded in 1960, the company has 3,500 employees globally, according to its website.

Robust Auction

The auction for IMG had pitted Silver Lake, based in Menlo Park, California, and William Morris against CVC Capital Partners Ltd, owner of the Formula One car-racing series, people with knowledge of the matter have said. Carlyle Group Lp was also among bidders earlier this month, the people said.

Spokesmen for Forstmann Little, Silver Lake and CVC declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday reported that William Morris was near an agreement for IMG.

William Morris Endeavor was created when Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor acquired William Morris in 2009. The Beverly Hills, California-based company is also a leading representative of authors and recording artists. In 2012, Silver Lake acquired a 31% stake in William Morris Endeavor.

Mark Shapiro, a former executive at ESPN Inc. and Dick Clark Productions, advised Silver Lake and William Morris.

Earnings Questioned

Forstmann Little had sought as much as $2.5 billion for IMG, people said earlier this month.

At the start of the auction the buyout firm told bidders that IMG would generate $200 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization this year, people familiar with the situation said. Bidders questioned that figure because of some accounting changes and one-time adjustments, the people familiar with the earnings dispute said.

Forstmann Little hired Morgan Stanley and Evercore Partners Inc. in May as advisers for a possible sale, people with knowledge of the matter said at the time. In August, the buyout firm said it was considering a range of options for the agency. It acquired IMG in 2004 for about $750 million, according to a person familiar with the matter. Bloomberg

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