Business

The talent agency which managed Phillip Schofield until the disgraced TV star’s career imploded this week is this weekend facing questions about its own future after its lenders called in advisers to explore a financial restructuring.

Sky News can reveal that YMU, which is owned by a private equity firm, has for weeks been involved in talks about the state of its balance sheet following a slump in profits exacerbated by the pandemic.

The company – whose name stands for You, Me and Us – is one of the most prominent in the British entertainment industry.

Its former clients include Mr Schofield‘s erstwhile This Morning co-presenter, Holly Willoughby, while its current roster comprises figures such as the Saturday Night Takeaway and Britain’s Got Talent duo Ant & Dec, Davina McCall and Claudia Winkleman.

Its music arm represents Paris Hilton, the former model and socialite, while its sports division manages several England rugby union internationals.

Based in London, YMU employs about 350 people in offices in the UK and the US.

City sources said this weekend that Permira Credit and Lloyds Banking Group, which are said to be owed roughly £70m by YMU, had hired AlixPartners several weeks ago to undertake an independent business review of the agency.

More on Phillip Schofield

This pre-dated the scandal involving Mr Schofield’s relationship with an ITV colleague 30 years his junior, and was triggered by concerns that YMU was likely to breach one or more of its borrowing covenants, according to insiders.

YMU itself, which is majority-owned by Trilantic Europe, has been advised by PricewaterhouseCoopers on its finances, according to insiders.

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One source said the company had agreed with its lenders to appoint a chief restructuring officer, although it was unclear on Saturday whether this had taken place.

Media industry figures suggested this weekend that YMU was likely to draw takeover interest from industry rivals.

The company has been run since 2021 by Mary Bekhait, who previously ran its UK operations.

Accounts for the year ended December 31, 2021 showed a turnover of £41.4m, with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of £8.2m.

The company declared itself satisfied with this performance in the context of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

Its latest accounts are not expected to be filed until the autumn.

One person close to YMU insisted that the company was “growing” and said there were no grounds for concerns about its future.

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Schofield: Affair a ‘grave error’

Mr Schofield, a long-standing client, is not thought to have been a material fee-earner for YMU.

This week, the agency said it had severed ties with him after discovering “important new information” about his relationship with a male colleague.

“Honesty and integrity are core values for YMU’s whole business, defining everything we do,” Ms Bekhait said.

“Talent management is a relationship based entirely on trust.”

YMU also employs Mr Schofield’s daughter, Emily, as a talent manager.

He acknowledged in an interview with the BBC this week that his career was over after he acknowledged lying to his wife, employer and colleagues about the relationship.

YMU says it represents more than 1,000 clients, with high-profile individuals including the TV presenter Graham Norton, actor Michael Fassbender and sports broadcaster Clare Balding all having been on its books.

Previously called James Grant Group, the company was founded in 1984 by Peter Powell, the former Radio 1 DJ, and his business partner, Russ Lindsay.

It was bought by Formation, a media and entertainment group, in 2008, before being sold the following year to Gresham, a private equity firm.

The business was then sold to another buyout firm, Metric Capital, which owned it from 2014 until the sale to Trilantic and immediate rebranding as YM&U four years later.

The scandal involving Mr Schofield poses a major headache for ITV, Britain’s biggest commercial broadcaster.

Its chief executive, Dame Carolyn McCall, will appear before MPs next week as part of a hearing examining the company’s approach to safeguarding and complaint handling.

This weekend, YMU and AlixPartners both declined to comment, while Trilantic did not respond to an email about its portfolio company.

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