Headline Sports Business

Sale Of IMG Worldwide Could Seriously Shake Sports Business Balance Of Power

Creative Artists Agency and Lagardere are rumored to be interested in purchasing IMG Worldwide.

The sports business world may soon be heavily shaken.  Last week, I reported that Creative Artists Agency (CAA) created a new venture capital fund and is seeking $20 million in funding.  Meanwhile, another behemoth in the world of sports could possibly be changing hands.

Forstmann Little & Company, a private equity firm that specializes in leveraged buyouts, has decided to put IMG Worldwide up for sale.  IMG Worldwide has long been a global leader in sports, fashion and media, creating and managing events, organizations, celebrities and brands.  On the talent representation side of IMG Worldwide’s business, the company’s clients include Joe Mauer, Peyton and Eli Manning, and Lindsey Vonn.

IMG Worldwide, Inc. (formerly known as International Management Group) was founded by the late Mark McCormack in 1961.  Forstmann Little purchased IMG Worldwide for $750 million in 2004.   The company was advised by the law firm Jones Day in the transaction.  Now, IMG Worldwide is looking for an investment bank to assist in a potential sale of the company.

From Reuters:

The sale is expected to draw interest from big entertainment players ranging from Creative Artists Agency and William Morris to French media group Lagardere, according to the people familiar with the matter. Large private equity firms and billionaires are also expected to participate, the people said.

There have been rumors about a sale of IMG Worldwide since the passing of Ted Forstmann, former Chairman and CEO of IMG Worldwide, in November 2011.  In January 2012, I was told by multiple sources that Lagardère was looking at the possibility of purchasing the company following its acquisition of Gaylord Sports Management.  However, Jim Gallagher, IMG Worldwide’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, had told Sports Agent Blog, “There aren’t ANY conversations going on with Lagardère, or any other company or individual for that matter, regarding a purchase of IMG.  There’s a good reason for that…IMG is NOT for sale.  We are focused on growing all of our businesses around the world.  We set a goal of EBITDA of $146 million for 2011 and while audited numbers won’t be available until March, we are confident that we delivered the $146 million.   Building on that credibility, we have budgeted $170 million for ’12 and $200 million for ’13.  At that time we have several options.

After years of speculation, it appears that the company will finally be put on the market.  If a company like CAA or Lagardère decides to pony up the money to purchase IMG Worldwide, it would seriously shift the balance of power in the business of sports.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.