Formed in 2014 when Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell merged their Hollywood talent agency, WME, with the sports and marketing empire IMG, WME-IMG sits at the center of the increasingly convergent worlds of entertainment, sports, and fashion. The Beverly Hills-based company represents stars such as Matt Damon, Oprah, and Adele, as well as owns and operates major live events such as the Miami Open, New York Fashion Week, Professional Bull Riding, and the mixed-martial-arts league Ultimate Fight Championship (which it bought in 2016 for $4 billion, along with other investors). The company has grown rapidly since 2014, morphing into a global empire that now owns, as opposed to represents, 50% of its assets.
Beyond representing talent—which ranges from movie and TV stars to athletes to models—the agency is coming up with interesting cross-company synergies that are effectively redefining entertainment as we know it: bull-riding events that feature movie screenings and concerts, and fashion shows that fuse musical performances and on-site shops—all of which are blasted out on an array of content platforms. Besides creating more compelling entertainment experiences, the approach is opening up traditionally niche genres, such as fashion and mixed-martial arts, to the masses. It is also making a strong global push for these properties. Using leverage from the joint venture it forged in 2016 with Tencent and Sequoia Capital China, it is planning to launch more UFC fights in China, where it is also making broadcast and digital deals for the sport. With its indefatigable growth and appetite for new investments (in 2016 it also became an investor in the Frieze art fair), it will look to continue to diversify and scale, potentially pursuing an IPO in 2017.