WME-IMG lands $1bn cash injection

The WME-IMG agency has received a cash infusion of approximately $1bn (€858.9m) as part of an investment led by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and the Government of Singapore Investment Fund (GIC).
CPPIB and GIC will join current investors Silver Lake, SoftBank and Fidelity as WME-IMG strategic partners. Silver Lake, a global leader in technology investing, will continue its strategic partnership with‎ WME-IMG, which began with its first investment in WME in 2012, maintaining the entirety of its equity stake.

US magazine Variety said the funds will help buy out a number of minority partners in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the mixed martial arts series that WME-IMG acquired for $4bn in July 2016.

In addition, Silver Lake said certain WME-IMG senior management and investors will be able to take cash out, while the investment will free up funds to pursue future acquisitions. The Canadian pension fund and the Singaporean sovereign wealth fund are both limited partners of Silver Lake. Variety said various other limited partners are also expected to take part in the investment round.

“This investment in a unique market leading platform in entertainment, sports and media further diversifies our portfolio,” Ryan Selwood, managing director and head of direct private equity for private investments at CPPIB, said in a statement. “WME-IMG's broadly diversified group of global businesses, and management team with a proven track record of building shareholder value position the company well for growth, particularly in content production and distribution.”

Eric Wilmes, managing director of private equity at GIC, added: “WME-IMG has demonstrated a capacity to grow and diversify in an increasingly complex environment for sports, entertainment and fashion globally. As a long-term investor, GIC believes the company will benefit from the strong trend of consumers demanding quality content.”

The new investment round values WME-IMG at $6.3bn, approximately $800m more than its $5.5bn valuation in 2016.  Silver Lake, which said that the round does not impact its investment in the agency, has invested a total of $750m in WME-IMG.

Variety added that investors in Silver Lake’s fund, as well as executives at WME-IMG, will now have the option to liquidate their stakes, which could in turn postpone a rumoured IPO at the company.