Hemisphere Media Group, the Miami-based parent of Spanish-language networks like Cine Latino and WAPA America, has approached Univision about a possible buyout, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
According to the Journal, Hemisphere is one of three potential suitors for Univision -- Los Angeles-based private equity fund Platinum Equity and an undisclosed company are the other two. Univision, which withdrew an initial public offering in 2018, has been looking for an exit for its private equity owners for months.
Hemisphere Media and Univision declined to comment. Platinum Equity did not respond to a request for comment.
Univision hired Morgan Stanley, Moelis & Co. and LionTree Advisors in July to explore possible strategic opportunities, including a sale. With three potential offers at the door, Univision’s owners could be closer to an exit than they have been in years.
Hemisphere, led by industry veteran and former InterMedia Partners executive Alan Sokol, has several Spanish-language broadcast and content properties in the U.S., Colombia and Puerto Rico, and reached a deal earlier today (Dec. 18) for continued carriage of its WAPA America channels on Dish Network.
Platinum Equity was launched in 1995 and although it doesn’t have any traditional media companies in its portfolio, has about $19 billion in assets under management and specializes in acquiring companies with “operationally complex businesses,” according to its website. Its founder, chairman and CEO Tom Gores also is the owner of the NBA Detroit Pistons.
Univision is currently owned by Saban Capital Group, Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG and Thomas H. Lee Partners, which took the company private in 2006 in a leveraged buyout worth about $13.7 billion. It reportedly turned down an offer in 2017 from Liberty Media’s John Malone that would have valued the company at $13.5-to-$15 billion. The 2018 IPO was expected to raise about $1 billion but would have valued the company at about $20 billion.
The withdrawal of the IPO touched off a series of events at the Spanish-language broadcaster, staring with the resignation of CEO Randy Falco and CFO Francisco Lopez-Balboa in March of that year. In the following months, several top executives, including former chief revenue officer Tonia O’Connor and chief content officer Isaac Lee, left the company for other opportunities. Univision shed some assets -- it sold its online unit Gizmodo Group to Great Hill Partners in April -- and endured some layoffs in July 2018.
Univision hired former Media General CEO Vincent Sadusky in June 2018 to take the helm, and the veteran broadcaster spent the next several months righting the ship by improving ratings and viewership in key demographics and ending a nine-month blackout with Dish Network. Sadusky also is familiar with Hemisphere Media. According to Univision's website, Sadusky served on Hemisphere's board of directors before taking the Univision position. He no longer serves on the Hemisphere board.
In the meantime, Univision has continued in an upward path, completing its most recent Upfront sales cycle up by mid-single digit percentages, its strongest growth in four years. In addition, Univision will rank as the No. 1 Spanish-language network in primetime (Monday through Sunday) for the 27th and 16th straight year among Total Viewers 2+ and Adults 18-49, respectively and its UniMás national broadcast network is reporting double-digit Q4 primetime audience growth year-over-year in all key demos. And TUDN (formerly the Univision Deportes Network) is one of the fastest growing sports networks and climbed a notch in Q3 to become the country’s fourth largest sports network in that period during primetime, regardless of language.
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