NFL + Hollywood = cash money

Ari and Sarah Emanuel attend 'Yessss!' MOCA Gala 2013. Emanuel was a key player in the merger between talent agencies last year.

The Hollywood talent agency William Morris Endeavor announced a big merger last December with the sports marketing firm IMG Worldwide.

IMG represents NFL stars, NBA players, World Cup skiiers and baseball players with multi-million dollar contracts.

"They've had to go out and raise $2.5 billion to finance this deal," says Sharon Waxman, the founder and editor-in-chief of entertainment site The Wrap, who has seen some new details about the merger. "This very ambitious acquisition of theirs of IMG -- which is the largest sports talent and events agency in the world -- is very much the minnow swallowing the whale."

Also revealed in the paperwork behind the deal? After the financing of this merger, WME will have some considerable debt racked up. They'll have to diversify their operations and find new revenue streams  to grow their company. Waxman says agencies are putting a larger emphasis on events, signing athletes, and representing corporations.

And to drive even more cash flow into the company to help fund the debt, Waxman says WME may decide to go public -- which would be a big break from tradition.

"That would be very interesting to watch. Who wants to buy those shares, who wants to own a piece of a Hollywood talent agency. That's not been something that's been available to the investor public out there before."

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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