November 9, 2006 1:03 am

Wasserman Media to buy SFX Sports

Wasserman Media Group is to become the leading company marketing football talent after agreeing to buy the agency that represents stars such as Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen and Andriy Shevchenko.

WMG, founded by Casey Wasserman, grandson of Lew Wasserman, the Hollywood mogul who founded MCA, has struck a deal with Clear Channel to buy its SFX Sports (Europe) subsidiary. Financial terms were not disclosed.

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WMG has a fast-growing US business and is active in basketball and baseball. It also has a naming rights business and brokered the sponsorship of Arsenal football club’s stadium by Emirates Airlines.

The group is also working on the sale of naming rights to the stadium to be shared by the New York Giants and New York Jets.

Until yesterday, the group’s presence in football was dwarfed by rivals, such as IMG. But in an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Wasserman said the acquisition of SFX Sports would boost the group’s presence in Europe and give it a dominant position.

He said: “One thing that has become clear over the last few years is that, on a global basis, football is unquestionably the most important sport. For us to operate at the highest level in sports marketing, we have to have a significant presence in football.”

“It’s important for us because [in Europe], WMG is an unknown entity. But an acquisition of this size and scope, bringing in these clients and agents, immediately makes us known across the sports landscape.”

SFX represents footballers including Alan Shearer, Jamie Carragher and Jermaine Jenas as well as rugby stars Jonny Wilkinson, Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio.

Sir Clive Woodward, who guided England to victory in the rugby World Cup, will also become a WMG Management client.

Mr Wasserman’s attempt to build a global sports marketing business has echoes of his grandfather’s work with MCA in the 1940s.

Lew Wasserman turned MCA into Hollywood’s most powerful studio by representing top stars such as Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, James Stewart and Alfred Hitchcock. The group then went on to acquire Universal Studios.

The acquisition of SFX Sports (Europe) comes as talent agencies in sport and entertainment are preparing for a round of consolidation.

In Hollywood, Paradigm, the talent agency that represents Hollywood stars such as Philip Seymour Hoffman, has been the most active lately, buying music publishers and smaller talent representation agencies to position itself as an alternative to established operators such as Creative Artists Agency and William Morris.

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