Wasserman edges ahead of Mediapro in race to buy Lagardère Sports
By Jonathan Rest
Wasserman, the USA-based sports marketing and talent management agency, has emerged as the front-runner to acquire Lagardère Sports, the sports marketing arm of the French media giant, Sportcal has learned.
The two companies are now locked in a period of exclusive talks, albeit there is no guarantee a sale will be concluded.
Sportcal understands that Mediapro, the highly-acquisitive Spanish media rights and production agency, owned by China's Orient Hontai, has been vying with Wasserman to acquire Lagardère Sports, but it is the Los Angeles-headquartered firm, headed up by Casey Wasserman (pictured), that is in the driving seat. Endeavor, owner of the IMG agency, has also been linked.
Wasserman is not commenting on the proposed deal, while Lagardère said in a statement today that it is "currently in the process of evaluating the strategic options for the sale of all or part of Lagardère Sports."
It added: "During this process, Lagardère may have to grant short-term exclusivity periods to potential buyers in order for them to address specific issues or due diligence matters. At this stage of the process, nothing is precise enough to be disclosed. Should it be the case, Lagardère would duly inform the market.
"Lagardère is not commenting on the rumours about specific partners such as Wasserman or Endeavor, which are established and esteemed players of this industry. Lagardère is not commenting on figures either."
Analysts have previously suggested a ‘sum of its parts’ value of between €200 million ($224.6 million) and €300 million for the sports division.
A private equity firm was also said to be in the running earlier this year, when Lagardère's general and managing partner Arnaud Lagardère revealed the sale should be completed in September, some three months later than first anticipated. It is now likely to occur before the end of the year.
Lagardère has been working with Goldman Sachs and the corporate and investment banking arm of Crédit Agricole on the sale.
Lagardère's sports unit has been dramatically restructured in recent years amid a diversification to move away from hefty media rights minimum guarantees.
It now has a strong athlete representation business, something that will particularly appeal to Wasserman, organises sports events and brokers commercial deals for teams across a number of sports.
The imminent sale of Lagardère Sports comes two weeks after chief executive Andrew Georgiou left to join Eurosport, the Discovery-owned international sports broadcaster, as president, Eurosport and global sports rights & sports marketing solutions.
Georgiou, who will officially leave in the autumn, will be succeeded by chief operating officer Ugo Valensi.
In its most recent quarterly financials, released in May, Lagardère said turnover at the sports and entertainment arm amounted to €202 million, an increase of 88.2 per cent on the same period last year.
This was attributed to “a favourable calendar effect” with soccer’s AFC Asian Cup and the World Men’s Handball Championships, for which it markets commercial rights, taking place in the quarter.
However, the unit will be shorn of the profitable Asian Football Confederation business from 2021 onwards after losing out in the rights auction, which could impact its overall sale value.
The winning bid from DDMC Fortis for the rights from 2021 to 2028 was worth well over twice the $1 billion that Lagardère is paying (for the rights from 2013 to 2020).
Last September, Lagardère did pick up a significant piece of business, taking on a worldwide broadcast rights agreement with the International Handball Federation (from 2019 to 2025) after the termination of a €150-million agreement with the now-defunct MP & Silva agency.