With the business facing a double whammy of soaring interest rates and economic contraction, these players know how to fight for their clients and their companies – and generate growth against the odds.
Joe Russo, Anthony Russo, Mike Larocca, Angela Russo-Otstot
Larocca: Co-Founder/Vice Chairman
AGBO is best known for the record smashing tentpole features churned out by Joe and Anthony Russo, the sibling producer-director-writers who lead the company. In recent months they’ve enjoyed success with Netflix’s “The Gray Man,” which they directed, as well as the sleeper hit they produced, “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which became distributor A24’s highest-grossing film ever, with more than $100 million in global ticket sales. They also have Amazon series “Citadel” in post, along with a Netflix feature set for 2023 release (“Extraction 2”) and another in production (“The Electric State”). But ABGO’s most significant deal is the $400 million minority investment they secured from Nexon in January, giving the video game maker a 38% stake in the company. The infusion of cash gives AGBO — which has a campus in Downtown Los Angeles, staffed by approximately 30 people, with in-house post-production facilities — a $1.1 billion valuation, along with the opportunity to develop their IP in the gaming space, adapt Nexon IP for film and TV projects, and ramp up acquisition and development of outside IP.
Platform agnosticism: “We continue to believe strongly in the theatrical model as well as the streaming model, as well as any potential hybrid that may emerge in the next few years,” says Larocca.
Scott Edel, Arash Khalili
Edel: Chair, Entertainment
Khalili: Co-Chair, Capital Markets & Corporate; Co-Chair, Sports
Loeb & Loeb
With Edel’s experience in IP-driven commercial transactions and a long history of getting movies and TV series made, and Khalili’s transactional experience in the M&A space, these two make a killer team. Edel says representing Nexon Studios in its $400 million investment in Anthony and Joe Russo’s production company AGBO is a true convergence of the videogame, film and TV mediums into a new type of entertainment. Khalili oversaw the sale of Ingenuity Studios to Streamline Media, and believes the name-image-licensing deal he crafted for the NBA’s second draft pick Chet Holmgren may well become a template how NIL deals are made in the future.
Art of war: “There was a period of time where there used to be a need to create as much content as possible,” Khalili says. “Now, I think the arms race is heading towards more premium content in the fight among platforms to compete for consumers and subscriptions.”
David C. Eisman, Glen Mastroberte
Eisman: Partner, Entertainment Group; leader, M&A/Corporate Group, Los Angeles office
Glen Mastroberte: Partner, Entertainment Group
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
Eisman and Mastroberte advised videogame conglomerate Embracer Group, which was purchasing worldwide rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s intellectual property (“The Lord of the Rings”) in April. The Los Angeles-based duo repped talent agency UTA selling a significant minority stake to private equity EQT in July and acquiring Lon- don-based literary/talent agency Curtis Brown Group in June. They repped the Russo brothers’ producer AGBO selling a significant stake to Japanese vidgamer Nexon in January and a second round of financing in July, valuing AGBO at more than $1.1 billion. They also advised hip-hop record label 300 Entertainment’s sale to Warner Music, which concluded in December.
Ripe and ready: Eisman expects lively dealmaking in the music sector, driven by growing music-streaming revenue, and also the talent agency/ talent management sector in the coming months. Talent agencies, he says, are looking at diversifying to adjacent businesses and also the fragmented management sector is ripe for consolidation. “They have already seen private equity firms make money investing in the talent agency sector,” Eisman says.