WME has continued to evolve, from a Hollywood talent boutique to a powerhouse in entertainment, technology, and advertising, and professional sports. Its $2.3 billion purchase of IMG, the world’s largest sports agency, in December catapulted it past rival CAA, making WME the largest agency in Hollywood. WME, with an entertainment and music clientele with everyone from Steven Spielberg to Bruno Mars, added Peyton Manning, Taylor Swift and other A-listers as well as dozens of universities, a hugely lucrative business because of college sports.
But it’s WME’s other bold plays that keep evolving the agency for a digital age. Last summer, it bought a49% stake in the cutting-edge ad firm Droga5. Formed in 2009 by the merger of William Morris and Endeavor, WME has co-founded an investment bank (the Raine Group) and invested in a creative music agency (Jingle Punks), a social gaming company (Grab Games), and a social media management company (theAudience, which has several hundred celebrity clients).
WME has thrown itself into experimenting with new models and revenue streams, because it can’t simply rely on outsized star salaries as Hollywood agencies used to. Co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell understand that their next big moneymaker could very well be an app.