The country's largest pension fund is getting a little closer to celebrity status.
The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board said Wednesday that it had struck a deal to invest in a U.S.-based event operator and talent agency that represents a wide range of artists and sports stars. CPPIB will take an 8 per cent equity stake in the privately-owned William Morris Endeavor Entertainment LLC (WME-IMG) worth $400-million (U.S.).
The entertainment conglomerate has a nearly 120-year history, having once represented performers such as Charlie Chaplin, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. Over the last few decades, the company expanded with new fashion clients, and began producing and distributing sports content, as well as representing athletes. Most recently, WME-IMG has forged partnerships in electronic sports and mixed martial arts, including leading a deal to buy the Ultimate Fighting Championship franchise last summer.
CPPIB was drawn to the chance to broaden its portfolio through this investment. WME-IMG has a diverse range of clients in a variety of art and media forms, including movies, television, music, books and theater. In the athletics realm, it has both professional athletes as clients, as well as entire leagues and even university-level teams. The company has ambitions to expand further internationally in the future.
"WME-IMG's 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," said Ryan Selwood, head of direct private equity at CPPIB, in a statement.
CPPIB found its way to this direct private equity deal through its longtime investment ally Silver Lake Partners, which already owned a stake in WME-IMG. The pension fund's other investments alongside Silver Lake include Alibaba and Skype.
GIC, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, also said Wednesday that it would invest in WME-IMG and that the combined investment with CPPIB would be worth a total of $1-billion. Eric Wilmes, managing director of private equity at GIC, said in a statement that the firm "has demonstrated a capacity to grow and diversify in an increasingly complex environment for sports, entertainment and fashion globally."