It has been over a month since I last posted an update on the sale of IMG. In early October, Martin Sorrell, the CEO of WPP, suggested that a joint bid by private equity firm Silver Lake and talent agency William Morris Endeavour (WME) would be the winning bidder. The deadline for second round bids was November 7th, and this is when the list was cut down to four, possibly five. Making the cut were Silverlake/WME, Carlyle Group/ICM Partners, KKR and Chernin Group/CVC Partners. Russian conglomerate Gazprom, who own soccer club St. Petersburg, are also said to be in the second round. As you can see by the many joint bids, the magnitude of such a buy is near impossible without the help of an equity firm. In many cases, the equity firm already has a stake in the agency they are bidding with.
To much surprise, the joint bid of CAA and TPC is no longer in contention. In fact, they weren’t even considered for the second round. CAA are one of the biggest talent representation firms in the world, boasting the Manning Brothers and LeBron James on their roster. They also recently signed Tim Tebow. Seen as the front runners for the acquisition pre-bidding, their bid was reported to be at the low end of the scale against the others.
While IMG had hoped to get a deal done by Thanksgiving, it now appears unrealistic. Industry insiders suggest a deal may not get done till early next year. It still appears that the Silverlake/WME consortium is in the box seat, just as Martin Sorrell predicted.