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RPT-Soccer-Hollywood agency ICM Partners latest U.S firm to enter European football

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MANCHESTER, England, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Hollywood talent agency ICM Partners have purchased British sports agent Jonathan Barnett’s company Stellar Group, the two firms announced on Thursday in the latest indication of growing American business interest in European soccer.

Stellar, founded by Barnett and David Manasseh in 1992, represents Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish amongst a number of Premier League and European players on their roster.

ICM Partners’ clients include actor Samuel L Jackson, comedian Chris Rock, television presenter Ellen DeGeneres and singer Beyonce.

“We did this deal to give our clients greater access to opportunities across the spectrum of sports, entertainment and branding and to give us the resources to further grow our business to better represent those clients,” said Manasseh.

Barnett and Manasseh will run the day-to-day operations of the new ICM Stellar Sports agency.

The once clear division between sports agents and entertainment representatives has already begun to break down in the United States, where sports personalities see branding and earning potential in the entertainment market.

“With connectivity speeding the process, the sports, entertainment, music, media and publishing worlds have converged. Clients have greater opportunities than ever before to be multi-dimensional, multi-media brands,” said ICM Partners CEO Chris Silbermann.

The approach has begun to appear in the European market as American firms look to expand.

In June, U.S based sports and entertainment agency Roc Nation, owned by rapper Jay Z, confirmed they had signed up Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford.

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku are also clients of Roc Nation.

The agency interest is reflective of a growing broader American involvement in European soccer.

Premier League clubs Liverpool and Manchester United have U.S owners, as do Italian teams AS Roma, Fiorentina and Parma.

A number of U.S based investment groups have been formed to purchase interests in the game such as RedBall Acquisition Corp whose board includes former Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore.

American company ALK Capital are currently negotiating to purchase Premier League club Burnley and Southampton are reported to be in talks with U.S businessman Joseph DaGrosa. (Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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