IMG is the company which, as Mark McCormack's International Management Group, pioneered the concept of commercial sports sponsorship back in the 1960s, and it remains the clear leader in the field of sports marketing. Although it is involved in a wide variety of different pursuits its two principal areas are golf and tennis, and it has used that base to expand into other forms of celebrity management, not least in the fashion industry. The agency is also now the world leader in fashion model representation and event management. The death of owner and chairman Ted Forstmann in 2011 raised the prospect that the company might become a takeover target for one of the larger marketing conglomerates. It was officially put up for sale in 2013. A merger deal was eventually agreed with talent agency William Morris Endeavor, with an estimated price tag of $2.4bn. The two units operate separately under the umbrella of WME-IMG.
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Adbrands Weekly Update 14th Jul 2016: A consortium of investors led by talent and sponsorship giant WME-IMG have pulled off what is being described as the biggest deal in sporting history with the acquisition of mixed martial arts tournament UFC - the Ultimate Fighting Championship - for $4bn, or around seven times last year's gross revenues. That represents a extraordinary payback for UFC's current owners, brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, who bought the event in 2000 for just $2m. WME-IMG already represents several UFC fighters including Ronda Rousey. UFC makes the bulk of its revenues from pay-per-view fights, and also currently has a cable deal with Fox, which is up for renewal in 2018. Putting the deal in context, $4bn is about what Disney paid for Star Wars owner Lucasfilm, and slightly more than Comcast is paying for DreamWorks Animation.
Adbrands Weekly Update 24th Mar 2016: Japanese group Softbank - owner of Japan's #3 mobile carrier as well as Sprint of the US - has invested $250m for a stake of around 4.5% in sports and entertainment representation giant WME-IMG. The deal values WME-IMG at $5.5bn. The talent agency is planning to extend its global reach with further purchases. It already represents a constellation of sporting and acting talent, owns the world's two biggest model agencies, and hosts multiple Fashion Week events around the world. However it has also begun to dip its toes into more traditional marketing services. Among other assets it controls a 49% stake in creative boutique Droga5.
Adbrands Weekly Update 19th Dec 2013: Talent agency William Morris Endeavor (WME) has scored the winning bid for sports and fashion giant IMG Worldwide, the firm originally launched by Mark McCormack which virtually created the commercial sports sponsorship industry. (IMG was also incidentally Martin Sorrell's first marketing industry job before he joined the Saatchi brothers). CME triumphed over talent rival ICM and private equity bidder CVC Capital Partners, and the merged group will overtake CAA as the global #1 in artist representation, with a roll call of many of the world's top athletes, entertainment figures and supermodels, as well as prestigious events including Wimbledon and New York Fashion Week. Financial details were not disclosed but the offer has been estimated at between $2.3bn and $2.4bn. WME is being backed by private equity giant Silver Lake Partners.
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