In a move that consolidates the Hollywood talent agency landscape into three major players, CAA has closed its acquisition of ICM Partners, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
CAA, led by Bryan Lourd, Kevin Huvane and Richard Lovett, and ICM, led by Chris Silbermann, first unveiled the deal in September, saying that “ICM is one of the best representation companies that has ever existed.”
“Today marks a new chapter in the history of our company, positioning us better than ever to deliver extraordinary opportunities for many of the world’s preeminent artists, athletes, thought leaders, brands, and organizations in entertainment, sports, and culture,” said Huvane, Lourd, and Lovett in a joint statement. “We are thrilled to welcome our new ICM colleagues to CAA, and look forward to combining their expertise, relationships, and resources with those of our agents and executives around the world.”
The deal close follows a lengthy review process from the Department of Justice as it probes antitrust concerns. Despite a close look by regulators, regulators ultimately allowed the acquisition to close.
“Combining with the best-in-class agency to build an even greater representation company for our clients and our colleagues is the core strategic reason for this move,” added ICM’s Silbermann and Ted Chervin, in a statement. “We couldn’t be more enthusiastic about our future together, and are energized by the sophisticated, forward-thinking representation we offer clients. This is the ideal next step for our companies.”
With ICM, CAA is bulking up to compete with an acquisitive UTA as well as the publicly traded Endeavor, owner of WME. The deal marks the largest talent agency buy since WME snapped up sports and fashion powerhouse IMG in 2014 for a $2 billion-plus price tag. CAA says the combined company will have some 3,200 employees, in 25 countries.
Inside ICM, the feeling is one of relief for some. The agency had to endure the quagmire of a deal that stretched and stretched, suffering low morale and seeing colleagues as well as clients jump ship. “You’re stuck in the many stages of grief and seeing people go through ups and downs,” one partner tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But at this point, people are excited.” Another agency insider notes the lingering acquisition was a distraction, one that will finally go away. “This had been a long time coming,” this person sighs.
The merger brings ICM clients like Shonda Rhimes, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Chris Rock and Vince Gilligan into the fold with CAA’s roster of names including Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Scarlett Johansson and Henry Golding.
When the initial CAA-ICM deal was unveiled, the agencies touted that ICM’s books division could be paired with CAA’s film and TV focus, giving the combined firm a competitive edge. And ICM’s U.K.-based Stellar Sports division, acquired in Oct. 2020, further builds up CAA in the sports representation space.
But the consolidation also raises fresh questions. For starters, it’s likely to result in corporate “synergies,” which often include layoffs and departures in certain divisions. Some agents are likely to seek greener pastured elsewhere, while boutique talent agencies may also see the merger as an opportunity to try and poach agents and clients, some of who —including agents that rep John Cena, John Cusack, John Woo and more—have left ICM while the merger was in review.
The two agencies, which are neighbors in Century City, will consolidate office space “as soon as time allows for that to be,” Lovett previously told THR. CAA signed a new lease for its current “Death Star” office building last July, but the agency plans to move to a nearby 37-story commercial tower nearby beginning in 2026.
Hollywood, like other industries, has been consolidating as tech giants have encroached into the space by spending massive sums of money to expand their streaming infrastructure and offerings.
The old guard, traditional media companies have fought back against the likes of Apple and Amazon by getting bigger. Discovery and AT&T’s WarnerMedia officially closed in April their $43 billion megamerger, creating the monolith entertainment giant Warner Bros. Discovery. Longtime Discovery chief executive David Zaslav has positioned the deal as an opportunity to take on Disney and Netflix in streaming.
In the midst of record consolidation across essentially every industry, larger firms, like CAA and Amazon, nabbed smaller competitors that found themselves vulnerable. (CAA rival UTA has also been on the acquisition hunt, snapping up U.K. lit and talent agency Curtis Brown Group and data firm Mediahound in June alone.)
The merger also comes as TPG, the private equity giant that majority owns CAA, continues to weather a difficult few months since going public in an IPO in January. (Its rival, the Ari Emanuel-run Endeavor, went public last April.) TPG stock is down 30 percent since its IPO. Meanwhile, rumors continue to swirl that CAA will be spun out as its own public company, though no such move appears imminent.
Since the ICM deal was first announced last year, CAA has made several additional moves to shore up its business. In April, the agency acquired full ownership of CAA-GBG Global Brand Management Group, a joint venture formed in 2016 and renamed it CAA Brand Management, giving the agency a direct role in managing brand extension and licensing programs for clients like Coca-Cola, Budweiser and Netflix.
Hollywood’s labor unions have been skeptical of consolidation on the agency side. While the Writers Guild of America West has not said anything publicly about the proposed deal prior to closing, the writers’ union has ramped up its opposition to mega-mergers in general within the last year.
In December 2021, the writers’ union released a report scrutinizing the “broken promises” and “failures” prompted by recent major media mergers, and in April WGA West board member Adam Conover spoke at a Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department hearing, where The G Word creator said mega mergers had “done tremendous harm” to entertainment workers. This year the union has come out in opposition to Amazon’s acquisition of studio MGM, and a source told THR that the Guild has had concerns about the CAA-ICM talent agency deal.
“Our diverse range of clients who entertain and inspire large global audiences have never been in more demand, nor have their opportunities been greater,” said Huvane, Lourd and Lovett in the joint statement. “With today’s addition of our new colleagues, the scope of possibilities for helping clients achieve their goals is limitless.”
Allen & Company LLC served as financial advisor for CAA, with Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz as its legal advisor, and Lazard served as financial advisor for ICM, with Sheppard Mullin and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP serving as its legal advisors.
Borys Kit, Winston Cho and Katie Kilkenny contributed reporting.