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Univision Board Explores Options

About a year after scrapping plans for an initial public offering and hiring a new CEO, Spanish-language broadcaster Univision said it has hired investment bankers Morgan Stanley, Moelis & Co. and LionTree to advise it in determining its strategic options, including a possible sale.

“After a successful year under the leadership of our new management team, including a complete refocus on our core Spanish-language media business, it is abundantly clear that Univision’s strategic value has never been greater,” Univision’s board said in a press release, adding that it wants to capitalize on its leadership position in the growing Hispanic media market. “As the last major independent broadcast media company in the U.S., a market where scale and strength matter, Univision has the fundamentals for continued growth on its own or with a partner – and after careful consideration, the Board and management team have concluded the time is right to explore strategic options.”

The decision comes about a year after the broadcaster hired former Media General CEO Vincent Sadusky to run the operation after CEO Randy Falco resigned. Falco’s departure was one of a series of changes at the company that began in March 2018, when it decided to abandon a plan for an IPO and chief financial officer Francisco Lopez-Balboa stepped down.  In subsequent 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 last July. 

Sadusky was hired in June 2018 and immediately set out to beef up the management team and refocus the broadcaster by investing heavily in news and sports programming. Now, a year in Sadusky’s plan seems to be paying off -- Univision says it is often the top rated news program in any language in several of its markets -- the time may be right to test the sale waters again.

Vincent Sadusky

Vincent Sadusky

“Over the past year, Univision has gained momentum as it has divested non-core assets; strengthened programming; secured long-term distribution deals and valuable sports rights; increased investment in news, sports, local, and digital offerings; and materially strengthened its balance sheet,” Sadusky said in a statement. “The current environment favors scale and cross-platform offerings, and we believe those major media companies that fail to recognize and capitalize on this unique opportunity in Spanish-language media will be left behind.”

Univision was taken private by a group of investors including Saban Capital Group, Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG and Thomas H. Lee Partners in a leveraged buyout worth about $13.7 billion in 2006. 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 IPO was expected to raise about $1 billion but would have valued the company at about $20 billion.

In a press release, Univision said there are no assurances as to the timing or outcome of the review and that it does not intend to comment until the review is complete.