Private investment firm Forstmann Little & Co has reached an agreement with Silver Lake Partners and William Morris Endeavor Entertainment LLC (WME) to sell its ownership stake in IMG Worldwide Holdings Inc (IMG), the global sports, fashion and media business.
The US$2.3 billion deal values IMG at roughly 13 times operating income or EBITA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization).
The transaction concludes a successful partnership between Forstmann Little and IMG, during which IMG grew into one of the world’s premier sports, entertainment and media companies with 3,500 employees in more than 30 countries around the world, and involved in an average of 11 sports and entertainment events every day.
Within the mass participation events arena, IMG provides a total event management solution, including sponsorship attainment, government funding, athlete acquisition and contractor and volunteer management.
Across its diverse portfolio of activities, mass participation events operated by IMG include:
- Beijing International Triathlon (part of the Escape TO Alcatraz Triathlon Series)
- Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
- Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research Blenheim Palace Triathlon
- The London Triathlon ‘the world’s largest triathlon’
- Run to the Beat powered by nike+
“Today marks the successful culmination of the bold global strategy devised by Ted Forstmann for IMG over many years,” said Mark MacDougall, a partner of the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, speaking on behalf of Forstmann Little.
“We would like to thank the Board of Directors, the leadership team and all of the employees of IMG for all that they have done to bring us to this day. We are confident that this fine company will continue to flourish and grow under the leadership of Silver Lake and WME.”
“We would also like to express our appreciation to our limited partners, who have shown great patience and support of IMG and its management through the years, helping lead to this successful outcome,” said Winston Hutchins, the remaining General Partner of Forstmann Little.
IMG traces its roots to 1960 when Cleveland lawyer Mark McCormack effectively founded the sports marketing industry by signing golf legend Arnold Palmer to his first representation contract. IMG was acquired in 2004 by Forstmann Little, the private equity firm led by the late Ted Forstmann.
Until his untimely death in November 2011, Forstmann served as Chairman of the Board & CEO of IMG and devoted his formidable energy, talent and creativity to building the world’s most important vertically integrated sports, entertainment and media company. His global vision for IMG included ground-breaking initiatives aimed at the development of professional sports leagues and marketing ventures in China, Brazil and India.
In 2010, Forstmann negotiated the acquisition by IMG of ISP Sports. Founded in 1992 by another great sports entrepreneur – Ben Sutton of Winston-Salem, North Carolina – ISP Sports contributed multimedia rights at an additional 64 colleges, conference, bowl and venue properties to the business of IMG College.
Sutton also joined IMG as President of IMG College in 2010. Under the leadership of George Pyne – President of IMG Sports & Entertainment – IMG’s college business has become the centerpiece of the business model envisioned by Ted Forstmann, with marketing rights to 90 universities and conferences, including two-thirds of the Bowl Championship Series schools and 49 of the 50 largest US markets.
CEO Michael Dolan and Co-Presidents Chuck Bennett (Golf, Fashion and Tennis) and Michel Masquelier (IMG Media) round-out the senior management team that has taken IMG to its next phase of ownership.
Evercore and Morgan Stanley served as the financial advisors to Forstmann Little on the transaction.