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Saudi looks to buy stake in Hollywood talent agency

Issued: 2018-03-16

Saudi Arabia is looking to acquire a stake in the Hollywood talent agency Endeavor in a move that would advance the Middle Eastern kingdom's growing ambitions in the entertainment industry.

The Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund — a public fund that the government uses to invest in projects at home and abroad — is exploring the acquisition of a less than 10% stake in Endeavor, which was previously known as WME/IMG. The acquisition is estimated to be worth between $400 million and $500 million.

No deal has been finalized, according to an individual with knowledge of the situation. An Endeavor spokeswoman declined to comment.

Endeavor is one of the most powerful agencies in Hollywood, representing numerous movie and TV stars, as well as businesses in the worlds of sports and fashion through its marketing division. The agency is headed by founding partner and chief executive officer Ari Emanuel.

News of the potential deal was reported Friday by the Wall Street Journal and previously by Bloomberg.

The investment is the latest signal of the desert kingdom opening its doors to the entertainment industry.

The move comes just a few months after Saudi Arabia lifted a 35-year ban on movie theaters, as part of a broader modernization push led by the conservative nation's reform-minded crown prince.

Hollywood executives see Saudi Arabia as a potentially lucrative market for films because of its large and predominantly young population that has had little access to entertainment. Saudi Arabia, which has a population of more than 30 million, could represent $1 billion in annual box office once the cinema market is fully built out, according to cinema executives.

Two-thirds of Saudi Arabia's population is under 30 years old, a prime demographic for theater circuits and studios that are facing flagging cinema attendance in the U.S.

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