LOS ANGELES — It’s Chinese money that’s been pouring into Hollywood recently, but now one of Japan’s biggest companies just bought into one of Tinseltown’s trademark talent agencies.
Tech conglomerate SoftBank has invested $250 million in WME-IMG, valuing the business at $5.5 billion, according to the Financial Times. The deal is expected to be officially announced later Wednesday.
WME was formed out of the merger of the famous William Morris and Endeavour agencies in 2009. WME then bought competitor IMG in 2014 for $2.4 billion. Private equity firm Silver Lake is currently the majority shareholder in WME-IMG, but its stake will be diluted after the SoftBank investment. WME-IMG represents stars of stage, screen and stadium from Larry David and Martin Scorsese to Serena Williams. The agency’s co-chief executive, Ari Emanuel, is the inspiration for Ari Gold in the HBO series “Entourage,” and a brother of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
SoftBank has tried for years to acquire significant assets in Hollywood. The company previously attempted to buy Universal Music Group in 2013 and discussed a possible purchase of DreamWorks Animation a year later. SoftBank did invest $250 million in Thomas Tull’s production company Legendary Entertainment in late 2014.
SoftBank, whose chief executive is Japan’s second-richest man, Masayoshi Son, bought a majority stake in cell phone carrier Sprint for more than $20 billion in 2013.