/// Silver Lake Grabs Large Minority Stake of WME to Push Digital Initiatives
Large private equity firm Silver Lake is buying a large stake in Hollywood talent agency William Morris Endeavor, which is being described as a way to turbocharge its digital efforts. While the pair would not disclose any financial details of the deal, which they are calling a “strategic partnership,” sources said Silver Lake is acquiring one-third of WME. “Over the years, we have been brick-building, as we have been doing more and more digitally,” said Patrick Whitesell, co-CEO of WME with Ari Emanuel, in an interview today. “But the opportunities are so vast, there is a need for more capital to do more.” Whitesell and Emanuel said they had been considering a range of investors, especially among media entities, but that they wanted to work with Silver Lake since it had more digital expertise as an active investor in technology. “In addition to capital, we really wanted a partner that to help us build it out that had more technology expertise,” said Emanuel. “We are good with brands and creative and talent, but there are many more Silicon Valley opportunities.” In fact, WME has long tried to up its digital portfolio to respond to the needs of its clients and the changing nature of entertainment distribution as consumer Internet use has exploded. That’s included a digital advertising effort, as well as one in online gaming. Silver Lake, which has most recently looked at investing in such Web properties as Yahoo, it was a chance to get at a trove of premium entertainment content. “You have two forces at play, ubiquitous distribution and four billion people connected,” said Silver Lake’s Egon Durban. “As that distribution has been commoditized, the only way to differentiate is through A-plus content.” Along with the core investment, WME and Silver Lake said they will also be considering other possible deals together as they move forward. “There is nothing we like more than handing our best partners more money,” said Durban. This is not the first Hollywood-tech hookup, which have waxed and waned over the years. Last year, for example, Accel Partners invested $40 million in Legendary Pictures and, back in 2008, Accel, the then William Morris Agency and AT&T formed an investment consortium to focus on Southern California start-ups.
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