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Ted Forstmann has informal role in William Morris-Endeavor merger talks

The IMG chairman is advising Endeavor partner Ari Emanuel in negotiations that could create a Hollywood super agency.

April 08, 2009|Scott Collins

The ongoing merger drama between the William Morris and Endeavor talent agencies has an unexpected new player: investor Ted Forstmann.

A real-life "master of the universe" who found fame during the 1980s takeover battle over RJR Nabisco, Forstmann has been informally advising Endeavor partner Ari Emanuel on the deal that might create a Hollywood super agency that would rival No. 1 Creative Artists Agency both in revenue and in the breadth of its client list.

"These are two guys who are old friends, and it's entirely within the realm of reason that they would talk about something like this," said Jim Gallagher, a spokesman for IMG, a sports, fashion and media marketing giant where Forstmann is chairman.

Gallagher said Forstmann confirmed that he and Emanuel had discussed the deal often, along with other topics. The connection is intriguing because IMG, which Forstmann's private equity firm acquired for $750 million in 2004, represents major sports figures and other celebrities.

A veteran investor with a fortune estimated by Forbes at $1.5 billion, Forstmann was the cagey (and ultimately losing) rival to buyout king Henry Kravis in the Nabisco takeover war. The battle was the subject of the bestselling book "Barbarians at the Gate," which led to a 1993 HBO movie.

IMG plays a major role in both sports and fashion, representing such clients as golfer Tiger Woods and supermodel Gisele Bundchen.

Forstmann's informal role with Emanuel increases speculation that IMG could be involved in a new William Morris-Endeavor entity in some way, potentially enhancing the combined firm's clout even further.

A spokesman for Endeavor wasn't immediately available for comment.

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scott.collins@latimes.com

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