SoftBank Group invests US$250m in WME | IMG

Japanese company joins Silver Lake as strategic investor.

SoftBank Group invests US$250m in WME | IMG

Agency giant WME | IMG has secured an investment of US$250 million from Japanese telecommunications and Internet firm SoftBank Group.

A statement issued on Wednesday said WME | IMG will use the capital injection to ‘advance its global growth strategy through new investments, acquisitions and joint ventures.’

Tokyo-based SoftBank joins private equity firm Silver Lake as a strategic investor in the agency, which was formed after Hollywood talent management company WME acquired sports and fashion agency IMG in late 2013.

The deal values WME | IMG at US$5.5 billion, according to the Financial Times, although precise terms of SoftBank's stakeholding have not been officially disclosed.

WME | IMG is run by co-chief executives Ariel Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell. Following their US$2.4 billion takeover of IMG, the combined company has been busy expanding and diversifying its business, making 12 acquisitions in 2015, including the Professional Bull Riders series, and forming four joint ventures, including the ELeague, an eSports league created in conjunction with Turner.

SoftBank Group, meanwhile, operates a  multi-pronged international business covering mobile communications, media and Internet services. It also holds considerable stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo! Japan, as well as in the likes of Coupang, Snapdeal, Tokopedia, Didi Kuaidi, Grab, Ola, OYO, Grofers and SoFi.

“Ari, Patrick and the rest of WME | IMG’s talented management team have a strong record of performance and transformation at the intersection of entertainment, sports and fashion,” said SoftBank director Ron Fisher, who managed the investment process.

“We look forward to supporting WME│IMG as it advances the next phase of its growth, further developing and driving its client and content offerings.”

Emanuel and Whitesell were jointly attributed with the following quote: “We’re thrilled to welcome industry leader SoftBank to WME | IMG. 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.”