William Morris Endeavor (WME) announced that it will buy sports and media talent agency IMG (which reps everyone from Novak Djokovic to Taylor Swift) for more than $2 billion. Many analysts say it’s a good move for Ari Emanuel’s and Patrick Whitesell's aggressive Endeavor. WME swiftly diversifies its already massive portfolio, hedging its big bets on the financially volatile movie business with a move into a sports sector that seems in permanent growth mode. (Hey, there's precedent: a century ago the original William Morris had to move beyond vaudeville!)
But it’s just in America, where a bet on the movies wants to be hedged. In China, the movie theater business is soaring. In 2007, the country had approximately 3,000 movie screens, today there are 17,740 screens in China. And China’s richest person, Wang Jianlin, has Hollywood stars in his eyes. His company, China’s biggest theater operator Dalian Wanda Group, bought American movie theater chain AMC last year ($2.6B), and now he plans to build 80 IMAX theaters in China by 2021. He's also catering to the moviestar lifestyle by acquiring the British yacht builder Sunseeker International ($500 million)--the same yachts used in the James Bond movies. Plans to build a new five star hotel in London by the Thames River ($1.1 billion) are in the works, too, for Dalian Wanda. It's exactly the kind of place movie stars (ahem, WME talent) will want to stay when in town. And now sports stars, too.
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