GIC, Canadian fund to invest US$1b in powerhouse Hollywood agency WME-IMG

US entertainment, sports and fashion agency WME-IMG owns and operates hundreds of events, including Ultimate Fighting Championship.
US entertainment, sports and fashion agency WME-IMG owns and operates hundreds of events, including Ultimate Fighting Championship. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - GIC, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) are investing a combined US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion) in US entertainment, sports and fashion agency WME-IMG.

The agency owns and operates hundreds of events, including the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants and New York Fashion Week. WME-IMG, which is led by co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, spent over US$4 billion to purchase the UFC last July.

GIC and CPPIB will join current investors Silver Lake, SoftBank and Fidelity as WME-IMG strategic partners, said the announcement on Thursday (Aug 3).

In a separate letter to its investors, Silver Lake said the new investment will make it possible to buy out some minority partners in the UFC and to allow some of WME-IMG's senior management and investors to take cash out. The investment is also intended to enable further acquisitions.

The latest cash infusion values the agency at US$6.3 billion, an increase from its US$5.5 billion valuation in 2016.

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.

"GIC is committed to supporting WME-IMG's continuing innovation, industry leadership and international expansion," said Eric Wilmes, managing director of private equity at GIC.

"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."