Silicon Valley private equity firm Silver Lake made a really good bet when it acquired a 31% stake in talent agency William Morris Endeavor in 2012.
"Literally, they had a company that was losing money," Silver Lake managing partner Egon Durban said Tuesday at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen. But this year, he said the talent agency will make a profit, excluding certain costs, of more than $400 million.
"And they've done it not by, like, inventing something new but with like, winning a thousand small battles with a ton of grit," Durban said about the current leadership of talent manager Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell.
In 2009, Emanuel's Endeavor Agency and William Morris Agency, which was more than a century old at that point, merged to form William Morris Endeavor. Three years later, Durban and Silver Lake joined the party by buying a stake in the combined company. Durban is notoriously cautious about pouring cash into the so-called "unicorns"—young startups with billion-dollar-plus valuations and high risk—preferring instead to stick with big legacy technology firms. He did, after all, work with Michael Dell on a $25-billion buyout of his company two years ago after meeting Dell at Brainstorm in 2012.