CAA Sells Majority Stake to Francois-Henri Pinault’s Artemis

French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault has completed his acquisition of a majority stake in Creative Artists Agency. Through his family investment company Artemis, Pinault replaces private equity player TPG as the primary holder of one of Hollywood’s two talent agency superpowers.

CAA, a diversified shop that makes deals on behalf of clients from Tom Cruise to the top-selling kids toys Squishmallows, joins Artemis’ $40 billion asset portfolio which includes Kering (the luxury goods group that houses names like Gucci and Saint Laurent), Christie’s auction house and winery Château Latour. The transaction, not yet completed, will value CAA in its entirety at $7 billion. The exact size of Artemis’ stake is not clear but it is is firmly majority control.

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The agency’s ruling triumvirate of Bryan Lourd, Kevin Huvane and Richard Lovett have all committed to remaining in leadership, though terms were not immediately disclosed, a formal announcement on Thursday said. Lourd will be named CEO after the Artemis transaction closes, a timeline for which was not specified. Jim Burtson, who led the CAA deal team, will remain President of CAA.

“Artémis is a strategic investor of the highest order, with global reach and resources across countless areas of our clients’ interests, a deeply sophisticated understanding of global brands and how to support their growth, and a passion for creativity and innovation that matches ours and that of our clients,” Lourd, Lovett, Huvane and Burtson said in a joint statement that praised Pinault and his team leads Héloïse Temple-Boyer and Alban Greget. “We are enormously grateful to TPG for their strategic expertise, invaluable support, and friendship over 13 years. We enjoyed tremendous growth and success together and look forward to continuing to collaborate on projects ahead.”

The decision to name Lourd CEO was made to help CAA adhere to the business structure of other Artemis companies. Lourd has emerged over the past 20 years as an industry rainmaker who commands respect from talent and management alike. Lourd, Lovett and Huvane have also taken pains in recent weeks as rumors of the Artemis deal began to heat up that they intend to remain day-to-day active as hands-on agents for their longtime clients in addition to their leadership and management responsibilities.

The CAA pact brings Kering brands closer to the entertainment world and gives CAA a strong French footprint, allowing it to become directly involved in European film and TV production through the acquisitions of local vehicles. Kering, meanwhile, has already made headway in the film landscape in recent years, becoming a major sponsor of the Cannes Film Festival and organizing a Women in Motion program that showcases inspiring female actors, filmmakers and producers. Pinault is married to actor Salma Hayek, a longtime CAA client.

Rumors of the stake sale sparked earlier this year with talks formally heating up in mid-July. Singapore-based investment firm Temasek will remain a minority investor in CAA while China’s CMC Capital, led by former Shanghai Media Group chairman Ruigang Li, remains a CAA strategic partner.

TPG’s initial investment in CAA sent shockwaves through Hollywood as it marked a huge private equity bet in the field of talent representation. Given the volatility of both sectors, there was immediate skepticism that CAA would flourish under the TPG umbrella. As time went on and TPG increased its investment to a majority of the agency in 2014, leaders of the massive fund said the connection to Hollywood, talent and the pulse of pop culture was extremely valuable as it helped inform TPG’s investment strategies in other areas.

In 2020, TPG’s Coulter told Variety, “What some people have missed from the beginning is that we invested in CAA not to make it into something different but because of what it was. It’s quite a special place.”

On Thursday, Coulter cast the transaction with Artemis in the most positive terms. It’s been “a privilege to partner with CAA during one of the most exciting periods of innovation and transformation across the media and entertainment industry. CAA has dramatically expanded its platform over the past 13 years and today operates as the premier gateway for leading talent and content creators globally,” Coulter said in a statetment. “This has been a hallmark partnership for our firm, and we wish the team continued success in its next chapter.”

The Pinault deal comes as the entire agency landscape is squeezed by ongoing labor strikes from the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA. It also follows CAA’s ingestion of long-established rival ICM Partners, bolstering its TV literary and publishing units among others.

The transition for CAA comes more than two years after the parent company of its chief rival, WME, went public under the Endeavor holding company listing. In contrast to CAA, Endeavor has taken a conglomerate approach of buying assets in content creation, distribution, technology and sports to build out a talent-content flywheel system. Endeavor shares were up 10 cents Thursday in midday trading to $21.61 after news of the CAA deal hit.

The agency counts divisions in film, television, theater, music, video games, publishing, and podcasts, endorsements, speakers and fashion. Allen & Company LLC served as financial advisor to CAA, and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz served as legal counsel. Rothschild & Co served as financial advisor to Artémis, and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP served as legal counsel. Ropes & Gray LLP served as legal counsel to TPG. Sullivan & Cromwell LLP served as legal counsel to Temasek.

Elsa Keslassy and Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.

(Pictured top: Artemis’ Francois-Henri Pinault and CAA leaders Kevin Huvane, Bryan Lourd and Richard Lovett)

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