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ICM Partners buys Stellar Group, with 800 athlete clients

Soccer player Gareth Bale puts his hands on his hips during a match
Soccer player Gareth Bale is one of the athletes represented by Stellar Group, which was acquired by Century City-based ICM Partners.
(Sang Tan / Associated Press)

ICM Partners said Thursday it acquired Stellar Group, a London-based sports representation agency that has more than 800 athletes on its roster.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Stellar Group has more than 130 employees, and its current contracts total nearly $3 billion, ICM Partners said.

The deal positions ICM Partners as a major player in the sports representation world. Previously, the Century City talent agency had represented sportscasters and a handful of athletes in areas such as podcasting and reality shows but did not handle their sports contracts with teams.

With the acquisition, ICM Partners becomes one of the largest sports representation agencies in the world, competing against WME and Creative Artists Agency. Last year, a division of CAA bought Base Soccer Agency of London, which represents soccer players, coaches and managers.

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“With connectivity speeding the process, the sports, entertainment, music, media and publishing worlds have converged,” said ICM Partners Chief Executive Chris Silbermann. “Clients have greater opportunities than ever before to be multidimensional, multimedia brands. Aligning our wonderful and talented entertainment clients with Stellar’s premiere athletes is a powerful combination.”

Crestview Partners is investing about $150 million in ICM Partners in exchange for a one-third minority stake in the talent agency, a source says.

The talent agency, whose clients include Shonda Rhimes, Samuel L. Jackson and Benjamin Bratt, has expanded into other areas this year after it gave a one-third minority ownership stake to private equity firm Crestview Partners. In exchange, Crestview invested $150 million into ICM Partners.

This year, ICM Partners bought live music booking agency Primary Talent International of London and a minority ownership stake in Swedish representation business Albatros Agency.

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Stellar Group is known for representing prominent soccer players, including Welsh star Gareth Bale, who plays for Tottenham Hotspur on loan from Real Madrid. The agency also represents New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston and New York Giants defensive back Xavier McKinney.

The London agency was founded in 1992 by sports agents Jonathan Barnett and David Manasseh. Both men will hold the title of executive chairman of ICM Stellar Sports.

“We did this deal to give our clients greater access to opportunities across the spectrum of sports, entertainment and branding to give us the resources to further grow our business to better represent those clients,” Manasseh said in a statement.

Ted Chervin, ICM Partner’s managing director, will also become chairman of ICM Stellar Sports and be tasked with growing the business in North America.

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“Being the industry leader in soccer gives us a great foundation to grow our NFL business and launch an NBA representation business here in the United States, and possibly Major League Baseball down the line,” Chervin said in an interview. “We are definitely looking to hire agents and acquire agencies on a very selective basis who are specialists in those other sports.”

Talent agencies are under growing pressure to raise capital to finance growth at time of rapid changes in the media industry. The rise of streaming and expected decline of TV packaging, combined with the effects of a longstanding boycott by Writers Guild of America, have put the squeeze on talent agencies, some of which have laid off workers.

Talent agencies have been under pressure from the pandemic, which has cancelled or postponed live events and Hollywood productions. Some large agencies have made cost-cutting initiatives, including layoffs.

They are also expanding into other areas as a longtime revenue source — packaging fees for assembling talent on projects — is going away. ICM Partners signed an agreement with the Writers Guild of America to end packaging fees by June 30, 2022, saying it is focused on being a representation business.


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