The need for speed

EM.TV buys 50% stake in Formula One racing

BERLIN — Calling it the “single most important deal” in the company’s history, Germany’s kidvid hotshots EM.TV confirmed Wednesday the acquisition of a 50% stake in Formula One racing.

EM.TV obtained the share by buying out the Morgen Grenfall private equity subsid, Speed, which held the 50% stake in Formula One.

Deal was paid for in a mix of cash and stocks, with EM.TV splashing out $712.5 million and issuing 10 million shares in exchange for the Speed interest.

Company has an option to obtain an additional 25% in the holding from the Ecclestone Family trust, which holds the remaining 50% share and says it is considering floating Formula One.

Sports rookie

Deal marks EM.TV’s first major foray into the sports rights biz, and the latest in a series of milestone deals that have transformed the stock exchange darling in a matter of months from a kidvid seller into a dynamic media house.

“Through Formula One, we will be involved in the marketing of one of the most lucrative sports entertainment events in the world,” said EM.TV’s founder and chairman of the board Thomas Haffa. “Our know-how will help to exploit Formula One in the brand development segment and on the Internet.”

Late last year, EM.TV expanded its core business in one fell swoop by picking up a 45% stake in TeleMunchen, Germany’s second largest rights trader. That deal brought with it an indirect hold on film distrib Concorde and a number of merchandising and production companies as well as a rights library.

Surprise buy

Company branched out into film last year with the surprise acquisition of a sizable stake in veteran German film player Constantin Film.

EM.TV last month went on to snap up a 100% stake in the Jim Henson Company for over $1 billion, which followed its joint venture with the Kirch Group, Junior TV, which brought with it 24,000 half-hours of programming and consolidated its position as a force to be reckoned with in the children’s programming biz.

EM.TV is considering floating Tele-Munchen, its toys company Junior.toys and the Jim Henson Company to free up capital for further expansion.

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