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François-Henri Pinault Is in Talks to Buy CAA Talent Agency in $7 Billion Deal

Luxury tycoon is in advanced discussions to buy a majority stake in Creative Artists Agency, according to people familiar with the matter, potentially adding another international trophy asset to the portfolio of a French billionaire.
Kering chief executive François-Henri Pinault is banning fur across the luxury group.
Kering chief executive François-Henri Pinault is banning fur across the luxury group. (Carole Bellaiche)

The talent agency, backed by private equity firm TPG, could fetch a valuation of at least $7 billion, said the people, who asked to not be identified because the information isn’t public. The talks, which have come to light just as Hollywood writers and actors go on strike together for the first time in six decades, could still end without an agreement, one of the people said.

If Pinault succeeds, the deal would show how French billionaires continue to broaden their reach beyond the businesses that made them wealthy in the first place. The Pinault family is the biggest shareholder in Kering SA, the owner of brands such as Gucci and Bottega Veneta. Via holding company Artemis, they also control a range of other prestigious assets such as auction house Christie’s and vineyards like Chateau Latour in Bordeaux.

Rival Paris-based luxury firm LVMH, controlled by the world’s second-wealthiest person, Bernard Arnault, owns labels ranging from Louis Vuitton to Christian Dior to Dom Perignon. LVMH, the world’s largest fashion conglomerate, had already made inroads into the entertainment world by signing up Pharrell Williams as men’s creative director at Louis Vuitton, following collaborations with the likes of Rihanna.

Meanwhile, Patrick Drahi, founder of French telecoms company Altice, acquired auctioneer Sotheby’s in 2019.

Representatives for CAA and TPG declined to comment, while a representative for Pinault didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

CAA, founded by Michael Ovitz, Ron Meyer and several partners in 1975, has long been one of the premier power brokers in Hollywood, though the so-called superagents later left for new ventures.

The Los Angeles-based firm offers talent management services and packaged content for Hollywood studios. The firm’s site offers information on how to book Salma Hayek, François-Henri Pinault’s wife, as a speaker.

CAA, like its rivals WME and United Talent Agency, is backed with funds managed by a private equity firm.

In 2010, TPG acquired a 35 percent stake in CAA. Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, the asset manager in 2014 boosted its ownership share to 53 percent to take control of the business at a $1.1 billion valuation. TPG via CAA has made at least one major add-on deal since then. CAA agreed to buy a smaller companion agency in ICM Partners two years ago.

A potential sale of CAA comes at a critical time for show business. The industry has been trying to adjust to quickly evolving streaming trends in a quest to reach profitability. It’s also facing a potentially crippling strike, with Screen Actors Guild picketing set to begin Friday in New York and Los Angeles, according to the union’s Twitter account.

The guild, which represents some 160,000 performers, announced a walkout Thursday after failing to reach a new agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, which represents studios including Walt Disney Co. and Netflix Inc.

By Lucas Shaw and Kamaron Leach

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