Crown hands over int'l biz to Providence, 3i

Crown Media Holdings is set to announce today the sale of its international operations to financial firms Providence Equity Partners and 3i Group of the U.K. in a deal worth $242 million.

David Elstein, former CEO of Britain’s Channel Five, will head up the new stand-alone business, which includes international Hallmark channels in 152 countries with 60 million subscribers, a library of about 600 films and miniseries and a broadcast facility in Denver.

Elstein is also a former head of programming at Thames TV and Sky TV.

Move affirms Providence’s role as one of the largest media holders in the world. It’s the largest institutional stakeholder in the consortium that’s acquiring MGM and an investor in Warner Music, and other assets include Kabel Deutschland, Europe’s largest cable operator with 10 million subscribers; Dutch cabler Casema, with 1.3 million subs; and — in partnership with Haim Saban — ProSiebenSat 1, Germany’s largest private television network.

In a complex corporate structure, publicly traded Crown Media Holdings is 67% owned by greeting card giant Hallmark. Other investors in Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Crown include Liberty Media and JPMorgan Partners.

Crown Media, in turn, owns and operates the Hallmark Channel. Net has 68 million subs in the U.S.

Crown shares jumped 5.16% Tuesday to $9.38.

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