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Jonathan Barnett sells Stellar Group agency to US-based ICM

Hollywood talent agency, ICM Partners, has purchased UK agency Stellar Group, previously owned by football super-agent Jonathan Barnett.

Jonathan Barnett, the super-agent behind star players such as Gareth Bale, Saul Niguez and Jack Grealish is a key figure in the lucrative world of football. He is most commonly known for completing Gareth Bale's move from Tottenham Hotspur FC to Real Madrid CF in 2013, for a then world record fee of £85 million, whilst also facilitating the Welshman's return to the North London Club this summer.

For American-based ICM, whose current list of clients include actor Samuel L Jackson and singer Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, the acquisition represents its first move into the world of sport.

The deal also follows a similar pattern by a number of large US entertainment agencies who have recently broken into the sports market. Base Soccer, a UK agency that represents the likes of Kyle Walker and Dele Alli, was purchased by Creative Artists Agency for an undisclosed sum in 2019.

Similarly, Roc Nation, a New York agency founded by rapper Jay-Z, added to its roster of musicians and US sports stars by signing high-profile European footballers, including Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku.

As well as footballers, Stellar Group represents a number of athletes in the National Football League (NFL), as well as international cricket and international rugby.

Following the sale, Barnett will take on the role of executive chairman of the new division, ICM Stellar Sports, tasked with signing clients across US sports, including the NFL and National Basketball Association (NBA).

Stellar’s core business has been under pressure through the ongoing pandemic, as they are reliant on commission through player transfer which have ultimately been less frequent this summer, with transfer values also decreasing due to club shortfalls.

However, even before the Covid-19 outbreak, Stellar Group suffered a £10m drop in revenues to £29.2m in 2019, while pre-tax profits were £4.8m, down from £11.5m a year earlier. Despite this, Barnett believes the agency has proven resilient, operating at the top end of the market, securing deals such as Ben Chilwell’s £50m move from Leicester City to Chelsea in August.

Premier League clubs paid a combined £263m to agents and intermediaries in the 12 months to January 31 2020, according to the Football Association.

Author: Ross Plank