ICM Wins Financial Suitor

As expected, International Creative Management sealed a deal November 1st for an approximately $100 million cash infusion. It comes from the sale of a controlling stake in the company to Connecticut private equity firm Rizvi Traverse Management and unspecified additional debt financing from Merrill Lynch.

The agreement was made a little more than year after ICM CEO Jeffrey Berg met Suhail Rizvi at a time when the agency was suffering defections of agents and their clients to competitors including Creative Artists Agency.

Berg will remain in control of ICM and its 150 agents as chairman and largest shareholder. Rizvi’s $75 million investment gets him a seat on ICM’s board.

The cash infusion is expected to help a younger generation of ICM agents gain partnership positions as inducement to remain with the company and will also enable the Beverly Hills-based agency to make outside investments.

But first it plans to make good on an agreed-on buyout of equity stakes from two longtime ICM execs who are now directors: Sam Cohn and Marvin Josephson, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“We wanted to keep the company private, but with investors who could give us the resources to stay in the deal,” Berg told the Los Angeles Times.

It likely doesn’t hurt that Rizvi is thought of as a rich investor who isn’t interested in tinkering with the business and shuns media attention, according to the paper.

The deal is considered unusual by agency standards, in which ownership is usually concentrated in a tight circle of elite insiders.

“I think having competitive agencies out there is good for everybody,” United Talent Agency director Jeremy Zimmer told the Times. “I think the investment community is going to look at the agency business differently.”

ICM once had a client roster that put it on par with William Morris and CAA. Defections of agents and clients over the years have reduced its status at the same time that upstarts like Endeavor and UTA came on the scene.

ICM was founded in 1975 with the merger of Creative Management Associates, home of legendary agents Sam Cohn and Sue Mengers, and International Famous Agency.