Scaling UTA—Private Equity Firm EQT Invests to Become Second-Largest Shareholder

Photo: United Talent Agency (UTA)
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Photo: United Talent Agency (UTA)
  • Save
Photo: United Talent Agency (UTA)

A victory in its aim to scale, UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer announced EQT’s investment yesterday—a move he claimed: “would help us drive growth while protecting our culture.”

As one of the most powerful talent agencies in the entertainment world, UTA boasts an impressive roster of the most talented actors, musicians, athletes, gamers, literary artists, and influencers. With clientele that includes Johnny Depp, Harrison Ford, Owen Wilson, and Susan Sarandon, the agency represents, collaborates for content production, acts as an advisory, and tackles marketing for the world’s leading brands.

CEO Zimmer said the influx of EQT cash represents “an artist-first approach and growth trajectory, and will help fuel the next phase of investments in talent, innovation, and international expansion.” Zimmer called EQT “the perfect partner for UTA’s next phase of growth.”

Divulging criteria for EQT’s interest, Kasper Knokgaard, EQT partner and Global Head of the Services Sector Team, said, “EQT invests in industry-leading platforms that are well-situated for sustained growth and align with our values.” Knokgaard also emphasized they know where EQT can create significant advancement and that “UTA checks all the boxes.”

UTA leadership will still hold controlling stakes, with EQT’s share coming from Investcorp, an international investment management company.

This deal makes EQT the second-largest shareholder in UTA, and achieves this mark by seizing not just Investcorp’s minority share but also purchasing stakes from other existing shareholders.

The UTA-EQT deal will close by the end of this month. For now, financial terms remain under wraps.

It’s important to note that UTA has benefited tremendously from the Investcorp partnership. Since Investcorp bought minority UTA stakes in 2018 with some institutional co-investors, the agency tripled its operating earnings EBITDA, all via organic growth and fierce acquisition moves.

UTA employee count is now nearly 1900, doubling during the last four years. In its strategic move to scale, UTA also acquired Digital Brand Architects, KLUTCH Sports Group, an advisory firm MediaLink, boutique agency The Curtis Brown Group, and Media Hound—a data analytics powerhouse.

These muscle moves allowed UTA to spread its wings into sports representation, influencer management, and brand consulting.

Speaking about EQT’s partnership with UTA, Head of Private equity Investcorp, Dave Tayeh, said, “We are proud to have been part of UTA’s consistent innovation and substantial growth over the past four years; and we look forward to their continued success.”

Zimmer also acknowledged Investcorp’s role in UTA’s progress over the years. “[Investcorp] have supported our growth in every way and were a thoughtful and steady hand as we navigated the pandemic. I’m grateful to them and look forward to achieving continued success in future partnerships.”

Talent agencies have recently dived headfirst into leveraging private equity cash to scale operations.

Last month, Nashville-based CAA acquired ICM Partners for $750 million, while California big-shot WME went public last year after seizing a similar private equity investment.

In a battle to see how big they can get, agency ambition for victory emerges from the entertainment world’s rapid flow onto the digital realm. Entertainment giants have invested heavily in direct-to-streaming moves, and discovering balance in subscriptions vs. other business models.

This entertainment evolution has stimulated a robust demand for exceptional-quality content and extraordinary creative talent. As a result, agencies like UTA are on a mission to progress rapidly and scale up—claiming top-shelf talent to become the best-in-class representation and production platform. Private equity cash plays the role of both savior and fuel to realize this ambition.