IMG is the global leader in sports and entertainment marketing. As Mark McCormack's International Management Group, it pioneered the transformation of golf and tennis in the 1960s from their humble amateur origins into multi-million-dollar crowd-pullers with a global TV audience. It effectively invented commercial sports sponsorship through representation of the so-called "Big Three" professional golfers Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, and was later almost single-handedly responsible for establishing Wimbledon as the world's premier tennis event after it took control of TV rights in 1968. From the 1970s onwards, the agency gradually diversified first into other sports and then into connected fields including media & event production, celebrity management, TV rights licensing, sports training (with IMG Academies) and fashion representation (with agency IMG Models). After McCormack's death in 2003, the business was acquired by his friend and sometime business colleague, investment banker Ted Forstmann. The death of Forstmann in 2011 raised the prospect that IMG might become a takeover target for one of the larger marketing conglomerates. Instead, a merger was eventually agreed with talent agency WME (formerly William Morris), with an estimated price tag of $2.4bn. IMG and WME are now the two biggest divisions within parent group Endeavor. That also serves as the umbrella for a collection of other production, services and marketing agencies, not least ad agency Droga5 via a large minority shareholding and PR agency Catalyst; as well entertainment brands including the Miss Universe beauty pageant, the UFC mixed martial arts league, international Frieze art fairs, and multiple Fashion Week events around the globe. Adbrands does not currently profile this company but subscribers may access contact information. The searchable account assignments database is available to full subscribers to Adbrands.net premium services. Click here to access Adbrands account assignments (subscribers only); or see here for information on how to subscribe.
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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