Photo by Sam Doyle Photography
Marc Geiger is a man on the move. The head of music at WME | IMG just completed the purchase of one of Australia’s largest booking agencies, Artist Voice. Just a day later, WME | IMG announced the acquisition of Professional Bull Riders, the 20-year-old rodeo property seen by 3 million fans per year.
The acquisitions are part of a growth strategy for the company as it continues to examine the possibility of a massive IPO. After WME wrapped up a blockbuster merger with IMG late last year, the new company is growing its global business with an eye towards expansion into Asia. Its acquisition of Artist Voice, the Australian booking agency founded by Brett Murrihy, earlier this week gives the company a presence in one of the fastest growing regions of the world.
In an interview with Amplify, Geiger described the purchase of Artist Voice as part of the company’s strategy for “getting a position in the Asia-Pacific and Australasia. Brett has offices in Hong Kong and Sydney, which are two great locations for us to continue our global growth and expansion. We wanted to make a larger effort in Asia-Pacific and given the amount of cultural difference and time differences, we didn’t think we could do this from North America. It made sense in our overall global growth plan. You’re going to see us build up that region, much like we built up Europe and much like we were able to build up South America from here.” (And note that this interview took place prior to the PBR announcement).
One of the first beneficiaries of WME’s Asia growth will be PBR, which is looking to continue to build new opportunities abroad. The Asia-Pacific market represents opportunities for new audience and new talent, and countries like China and South Korea are beginning to build early farm systems for both riders and bulls.
According to a statement from WME | IMG co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, the company has a long relationship with PBR and the timing on the deal just made sense.
“We’ve worked closely with the PBR for the last several years and share their passion for expanding the sport globally,” Emanuel and Whitesell said. “The resources across WME | IMG make the partnership a perfect match, combining top quality event production and broadcast rights.”
One of PBR’s strongest international markets is Australia, which has hosted more than 100 PBR events in the last decade.
“Anytime you try to have a true global business, you have to figure out how you’re going to attack all of the markets. Australia is very mature in terms of music and touring,” Geiger said.
He noted that WME | IMG didn’t buy Artist Voice “just to be in the Australia market. We’re already in the Australia market. We love having more artists, especially representing them in different parts of the world.” He later added that the company has “multiple IMG offices in China, Korea, Singapore and others, and long term I think we’ll be growing our office presence. This is stage one of us growing our presence in the Australasia market in a meaningful way.”
Geiger said the Artist Voice deal “gives us a higher level of intelligence, local versus doing it from 6,000 miles away. For now, we’re absorbing an agency with a lot of great clients that we already work with and gaining intelligence in Australia, but the number one reason we did this was to establish Australia as a base camp for all of Asia. Where that goes, we’ll see over the next few years. We now have an outpost in Hong Kong. There’s clearly big markets in Korea, Japan and China. For us, this is a great acquisition with great people and great clients, but I think the story to be told will be over the next few years.”