VGC exits Iconic Images in £20m sale to US firm

VGC Partners has sold its stake in Iconic Images in a £20m sale to New York-based Authentic Brands Group (ABG), a brand development, marketing and entertainment company, delivering a 2 x return.

Headquartered in London, Iconic Images owns and manages some of the world’s most famous photography archives. Its collections feature millions of images spanning the history of fashion, rock and roll, film, politics, royalty and pop culture. It brings long standing active relationships within key markets around the world including New York City, Paris, Los Angeles, Dubai and Tokyo.

ABG was set up by Jamie Salter in 2010 to build the long-term value of consumer brands by partnering with manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. It acquired Reebok for $2.5bn earlier this year, and now represents over 30 brands, including apparel chain Forever21 and Sports Illustrated magazine.

Through this acquisition, ABG will own and manage the rights to the entire Iconic Images photography archive including fine art prints from acclaimed photographers Ed Caraeff, Eva Sereny, Ted Williams and Terry O’Neill, as well as photos of musical icons and Hollywood greats such as The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Kate Moss and many more.

The acquisition marks the creation of a new fine arts division within ABG’s entertainment portfolio, and the archive will be used to enhance ABG’s storytelling around key partnerships.

VGC, which invests between £2m and £5m in early-stage consumer, digital media and tech businesses, took a minority stake in Iconic Images in 2013. It has worked alongside the company’s CEO Robin Morgan to digitise its physical archives and enhance revenue generation through new licensing and merchandising deals. VGC also helped Iconic to launch exclusive collaborations with Raymond Weil and the David Bowie estate, as well as Hard Rock Hotels.

Over the investment period sales increased 300 per cent from £500,000 to £5m, with EBITDA rising from £120,000 to £2m.

Parminder Basran, founder and managing partner at VGC Partners, said:

“It has been a pleasure working with Robin and the Iconic team over the years. Our focus was to help the company digitise old photographs, drive sales of its core business, and tap into our networks to form exclusive collaborations with world-renowned brands. I am looking forward to seeing how the business takes off even further under ABG’s ownership.”

Robin Morgan, founder and CEO of Iconic Images, added:

“I will always be grateful to Parminder and VGC. He immediately grasped what we were planning to achieve, put the wind in our sails and was a guiding hand throughout the journey, helping to digitise seemingly worthless archives and identify lucrative partnerships on a global scale. ABG’s expertise in investing in valuable IP, unique storytelling and marketing makes the acquisition a natural fit, and I am thrilled that we’re becoming part of the Group.”