Mukesh Ambani, chairman of India’s Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), is in talks to buy New York-based talent agency IMG Worldwide Inc., the Indian Express newspaper reported today, citing an unidentified Reliance official.
Ambani is competing with other potential buyers, including businessmen from Brazil, the U.K. and Qatar, for IMG, which may fetch almost $3 billion, according to the report. Tushar Pania, a Mumbai-based spokesman for Reliance, said by telephone that the company doesn’t comment on speculation. Two calls to IMG’s Hong Kong office today weren’t answered.
Forstmann Little & Co. is working with Morgan Stanley and Evercore Partners Inc. (EVR:US) to find a buyer for IMG, which represents sports stars such as Peyton and Eli Manning, people with knowledge of the matter said May 2. The business could fetch $2 billion, said two people, who asked not to be named because the process is private.
IMG and Reliance formed a company in 2010 to develop sports and entertainment in the world’s second-most populous nation behind China. IMG Reliance that year signed a 30-year contract with the Basketball Federation of India that allows for the start of a professional league.
Possible suitors for IMG may include Guggenheim Partners, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers; Silver Lake Management LLC, which has a stake in William Morris Endeavor Entertainment LLC; and Creative Artists Agency, part owned by private-equity firm TPG Capital, said Rob Tilliss of Inner Circle Sports. Tilliss founded Inner Circle, which advises on the buying and selling of professional sports teams.
Ambani’s association with IMG and his relationship with IMG’s current owners make him the favorite, according to the Indian Express report.
IMG, now led by Chief Executive Officer Michael Dolan, represents top athletes such as the National Football League’s Mannings and tennis champion Venus Williams, according to its website. The agency also represents models such as Gisele Bundchen and manages fashion and sports events such as Mercedes- Benz Fashion Week and Wimbledon.
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