William Morris Endeavor has sold a non-controlling 31 percent stake in the agency to Silver Lake Partners, a prominent private equity firm that specializes in technology investments.
The deal is part of a new “strategic partnership” that will combine WME’s list of A-list clients, including Martin Scorsese, Justin Timberlake and Matt Damon, with Silver Lake's technology bonafides.
“Partnering with Silver Lake aligns WME with the global leader in technology investing, and ensures that all of our clients across film, TV, music, literature and other genres can capitalize on the dramatic new opportunities emerging from the digital media revolution,” WME Co-CEOs Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel said in a statement. “While we have already taken significant strategic steps to transition our business to the new digital media landscape, we are excited about the financial strength and technology expertise Silver Lake brings."
The new capital will be used to expand the agency's technology initiatives and invest ahead of the curve as content becomes ever more valuable in the digital space.
"At our core we're technology investors, we haven’t made media investments," Egon Durban, a managing partner of Silver Lake, said in an exclusive interview with TheWrap. "But as you’ve had this explosion in platforms and everyone talking about tech-media convergence, this disruption that‘s driving more engaged users, on top of four billion people with ubiquitous connectivity, the value of premium content has never been higher."
Whitesell and Emanuel will be announcing new projects in the next six to 18 months that will put the new capital to work. Silver Lake will not exercise control over the day-to-day operations of WME but Durban will join the agency’s Executive Committee.
Silver Lake has invested in high-profile companies like Skype.
WME is just three years removed from the merger of William Morris and Endeavor, the blockbuster deal that launched the new company and saw the dismissal of a generation of old school William Morris agents.
Emanuel and Whitesell took over WME and have renewed long-term deals at the agency, as has the rest of the management team.
Founded in 1999 and based in Menlo Park, California, Silver Lake has invested in companies like Skype and Sabre Holdings. Among its original founders were Glenn Hutchins, Roger McNamee and James Davidson. McNamee later left to found Elevation Partners.
WME declined to say whether Silver Lake was now the largest shareholder in the agency. The balance of shares are held by WME's partners.