Independent Talent Eyes Private Equity Deal, CAA Pulls Out

Duncan Heath’s legendary London agency Independent Talent Group is coming off the sales block.

Variety understands that the U.K. company has secured a private equity buyer, and that a due diligence period is currently underway. The specific private equity firm involved in the deal isn’t currently known, though sources indicate that a well-known and respected entertainment executive is involved in the outfit.

Sources tell Variety that CAA was at one point talking to Independent Talent, but that the U.S. agency — which acquired ICM Partners for $750 million last year — pulled away from a sales conversation in recent months. Other interested parties that have been in the mix in the last year are believed to include WME and Wasserman.

Heath has been looking to sell the storied talent agency for some time. The British executive founded Duncan Heath Associates with Hilary Dwyer in the 1970s. The company sold to ICM in 1985 and then merged with the U.S. agency’s London operation, with Heath serving as chairman.

The exec carried out a management buyout from ICM in 2002, and a few years later rebranded as Independent Talent Group. The company’s current roster of clients includes Claire Foy, Gillian Anderson, Sam Claflin, Lennie James and Elisabeth Moss, among many others.

Independent’s most recent financial statement for the year ending March 2022 lists five directors, including Heath, agents Sally Long-Innes and Paul Lyon-Maris, D. Barnes and Ron Burkle — a frequent media investor via his Yucaipa Companies investment firm — who is believed to be a majority stakeholder. Another director, Lyndsey Posner, exited earlier this year to set up her own consultancy. Altogether, the company employs around 180 people, including 57 agents — a headcount that’s grown significantly in recent years.

In its earnings report, released in March, Independent said that “looking forward, the directors will look to expand the core agency whilst maintaining the group’s reputation in the industry.” The agency declared revenues of £43.19 million ($55.42 million) and profits of £3.91 million ($5 million).

The sale of Independent comes amid a period of rapid change in the U.K. marketplace, which has been awash with American investment in recent years. UTA acquired literary and talent firm Curtis Brown Group last year in a shock deal, and as reported by Variety, this week opened a new office in Soho with plans for U.S. agents to embed in London for long periods of time. Meanwhile, United Agents — which represents actors such as Kate Winslet and Ricky Gervais — has also courted sales rumors in the last few months.

A private equity deal for Independent would be tricky if the PE firm is far removed from the entertainment world, but with a film-savvy executive believed to be spearheading the deal, it could bode well for the storied agency.

Independent Talent did not respond to requests for comment. CAA declined to comment.

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