Japanese firm SoftBank invests $250 million in talent agency WME | IMG


A man walks past a sign of SoftBank in Yokohama, near Tokyo, on Feb. 10, 2016.

(Eugene Hoshiko / AP)

Japanese finance and telecom giant SoftBank has invested $250 million into talent and fashion firm WME | IMG.

SoftBank teamed with Silicon Valley investor Silver Lake, its private equity partner, for the deal, which is meant to accelerate WME | IMG’s global growth through new investments, acquisitions and joint ventures.

The deal gives SoftBank about 8% of the equity in the Beverly Hills-based talent agency and values the agency, its content and event production operations at about $5.5 billion, according to the Financial Times, which first reported the investment.

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“We’re thrilled to welcome industry leader SoftBank to WME | IMG,” said the agency’s co-chief executives, Ariel Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, in a statement on Wednesday. “SoftBank brings a unique industry perspective and a commitment to help us deliver valuable new opportunities to our clients and partners in markets around the world.”

SoftBank’s director Ron Fisher, who managed the investment process, cited WME | IMG’s management team’s “strong record of performance and transformation at the intersection of entertainment, sports and fashion,” and said he looks forward to supporting the firm as it “advances the next phase of its growth, further developing and driving its client and content offerings.”

In October 2014, the Japanese firm invested $250 million in Legendary Entertainment, its first investment in a Hollywood studio, as it sought to bring more content to its mobile and digital networks. At the time, the company was exploring the idea of buying Glendale-based DreamWorks Animation for $3.4 billion. It reportedly sold its stake in Legendary as part of the $3.5 billion Dalian Wanda Group purchase in January.

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In September, the telecom giant joined theater chain Cinemark to invest in League Gaming Inc., a Santa Monica start-up that temporarily turns movie theaters into makeshift arenas for competitive video-gaming. It also reached a partnership deal with Netflix when the streaming service launched in Japan in the fall.

The rapidly diversifying WME | IMG represents artists and creators across every entertainment medium and has expanded over the years to include athletes, chefs, stylists and models. It also puts on live fashion and culinary events, and globally franchised cultural festivals.

In 2015, the agency completed 12 acquisitions, including the Professional Bull Riders and Miss Universe.

Follow me on Twitter @NardineSaad.


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