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WME-IMG appoints NBA exec to lead Chinese division

WME-IMG has appointed Michael Ma, a former executive of the NBA basketball league, as chief executive of its China subsidiary, as part of an effort to drive the agency’s growth in the country.

Ma, who will be based in Shanghai, joins WME-IMG China after 13 years with the NBA, where he played a major role in developing the league’s presence in the country.

The new subsidiary was formed in June of this year through a Sequoia Capital China-led investment group including Tencent, FountainVest Partners and Focus Media, to help WME-IMG capture more business within the Chinese sports and entertainment industries.

Ariel Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, co-chief executives of WME-IMG, said in a joint statement: “Michael brings not only a deep knowledge of the Chinese market, but also incredible experience in cultivating brands within China through his work with the NBA.

“We’re looking forward to working alongside Michael to expand our current business in China while creating new opportunities for our clients and partners in one of our fastest growing markets.”

WME-IMG has been active in the country for some time and has represented a host of major athletes, including retired tennis star Li Na, as well as key sports events such as the Shenzhen Open women’s tennis tournament and WGC HSBC Champions golf competition. In addition, the agency has negotiated media rights deals on behalf of sports entities such as the Chinese Super League club football competition.