WME|IMG Announce China JV To Boost Growth
New venture will enable WME | IMG to accelerate the growth of its Chinese business across sports and entertainment.
WME | IMG and a Sequoia Capital China-led consortium today announced the formation of a new China-based joint venture to enhance and accelerate WME | IMG’s continued growth in the country. The investment is led by leading venture capital and private equity firm Sequoia Capital China. Tencent, a leading provider of comprehensive internet services in China, and FountainVest Partners, a leading China-focused private equity firm, also participated in the investment.
“WME | IMG has had a formidable foothold in China for a number of years,” remarked Mr. Neil Shen, Founding & Managing Partner, Sequoia Capital China. “With the incredible growth they have been experiencing domestically, we saw this as a perfect opportunity to help them replicate that success in China within both sports and entertainment. This partnership is another example that Sequoia Capital China plays an instrumental role in helping leading Internet and media companies grow and expand in China.”
Said Mr. Martin Lau, President, Tencent: “We believe there’s significant potential for WME | IMG’s impact in China. Given our popular Internet platforms, as well as network of relationships within media and entertainment, we are presented with a unique opportunity to help them optimize their growth strategy in our home market.”
“Our focus is on identifying industry leaders with high growth potential in the Chinese market,” said Mr. George Chuang, Partner and Managing Director, FountainVest Partners. “We and Focus Media, our joint venture partner for investing in this opportunity, look forward to helping an entertainment and sports leader like WME | IMG reach its next stage of growth in China.”
WME | IMG already has a diversified and growing presence in China, representing leading athletes like Li Na; managing professional golf and tennis events including the WGC HSBC Champions and Shenzhen Open; operating mass participation events including The Color Run and Tough Mudder; helping stage fashion events like Shenzhen Fashion Week; negotiating media rights on behalf of sports entities such as the Chinese Super League; operating a joint venture with CCTV to develop and promote sporting events; and providing strategic counsel to tourism, sports, corporate and event authorities. The creation of this new joint venture will allow for expansion in these areas in addition to new forays into Chinese sports and entertainment.
“We have a deep history in China rooted in our sports business across areas as varied as events, media, representation and licensing,” remarked Mr. Ariel Emanuel and Mr. Patrick Whitesell, WME | IMG Co-CEOs. “Through Sequoia Capital China’s incredible effort in leading this consortium and creating this joint venture, we’re able to expand our business while embarking on new initiatives to create exciting opportunities for our clients and partners.”
News of the joint venture comes after the announcement that SoftBank Group and Fidelity Management and Research Company made investments of $250 million and $55 million, respectively, in WME | IMG. These funds will be used to advance the company’s global growth strategy through new investments, acquisitions and joint ventures. In April, the company also unveiled a new strategic partnership with Frieze, a premier London-based arts media and events company, in addition to announcing acquisitions of two leading experiential marketing agencies.
In 2015, WME | IMG completed a number of acquisitions to expand its capabilities and client services globally and to broaden its owned event portfolio and content offerings through properties like The Wall Group, Professional Bull Riders, and Miss Universe. The company also formed four strategic joint ventures in 2015 including ELEAGUE, an eSports league created in conjunction with Turner.
WME | IMG represents a powerful and diverse roster of artists and creators across every entertainment vertical including motion picture, television, music, books, digital and theater. Its sports client roster ranges from professional athletes to sports federations and leagues to more than 200 collegiate institutions. The company also works with top-100 global advertisers to develop meaningful consumer platforms and helps new and iconic brands optimize their licensing potential.
Each year, IMG produces more than 52,000 hours of sports programming and arranges to distribute an additional 32,000 hours on behalf of more than 200 clients including major sports leagues and events. The company also operates one of the largest sports training institutions in the world, IMG Academy. IMG owns, operates or commercially represents more than 800 events – two-thirds of which are sports – including professional golf and tennis tournaments and premier mass participation races.
The company also curates premier culinary and globally-franchised cultural festivals, including Taste Festivals, inspired by a client roster that includes some of the world’s leading chefs.
An international leader in model management and talent discovery, IMG manages the careers of 14 of the 21 highest paid models as listed by Forbes. Through The Wall Group and Art + Commerce, the company manages the photographers, stylists, creative directors, production designers, hair and makeup artists, and illustrators who bring the worlds of art and fashion to life. Additionally, the company owns, operates, and/or commercially represents more than 30 fashion global fashion events including New York Fashion Week: The Shows and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia. Its OTT channel, Made to Measure (M2M), was the first-ever network to launch exclusively on Apple TV and features original and acquired fashion series and films as well as iconic archival runway footage.