Mar 24, 2016
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SoftBank Group invests $250 million in talent agency WME-IMG

Mar 24, 2016

The Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank Group has invested $250 million (€224 million) in US talent agency WME-IMG, which represents athletes, artists and models, confirming its ambitions in the leisure world, according to a joint press release received on Thursday in Tokyo.

WME-IMG manages the New York Fashion Week (Public School - Autumn/Winter 2016 - Menswear - New York) - © PixelFormula

SoftBank thus joined the agency's principal shareholder, investment fund Silver Lake Partners. WME-IMG was born in 2014 through the acquisition by William Morris Endeavor (WME) of its rival IMG, and intends to "use these funds to make new investments, acquisitions and partnerships."

For its part, the group owned by billionaire Masayoshi Son continues to pursue a strategy of content portfolio expansion that is complementary to its main interests. In October 2014 the group acquired the online video service DramaFever, and invested $250 million in Californian media group Legendary Entertainment.

In a similar vein, it acquired software developer GungHo, creator of the Puzzle & Dragons videogame, as well as Finnish videogame designer Supercell.

WME-IMG is directed by Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel, and represents several Hollywood and pop music stars, renowned athletes and fashion icons. Among the most popular names there are Ben Affleck, Martin Scorsese, Charlize Theron, Justin Timberlake and Serena Williams. The agency also owns or operates more than 30 fashion weeks worldwide, including New York's.

"Ari, Patrick and the rest of the team have a solid history in terms of performance and development at the nexus of the leisure, sport and fashion industries," stated Ron Fisher, the SoftBank board member who is in charge of the transaction. "We are delighted at the idea of supporting them in this new stage of their development."

According to the Financial Times, the operation has valued WME-IMG at $5.5 billion.


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