KKR, Permira buy German broadcaster

BERLIN — Haim Saban is selling Germany’s biggest broadcaster, ProSiebenSat 1, to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Permira for e3 billion ($4 billion).

“After reviewing all of the bids, we are convinced that the offer of KKR and Permira is the most attractive for both, the company and current shareholders,” Saban said in a statement late Thursday.

The two equity investors will pay $38 per voting share. Voting shares make up most of the 50.5% stake owned by German Media Partners, the holding company operated by Saban and his investment partners Providence, Bain, Hellman & Friedman, Thomas H. Lee, Quadrangle, Alpine and Putnam.

That price, along with the publicly listed non-voting shares, puts the value of the company at $7.5 billion. Saban and Co. paid $9.88 per voting share when they took over the group in 2003.

A holding company dubbed Lavena 4, which is controlled by KKR and Permira, signed the share purchase agreement Thursday, effectively acquiring 88% of the voting common shares and 13% of the non-voting preference shares in ProSiebenSat 1.

Adam Chesnoff, prexy-chief operating officer of Saban Capital Group, told Daily Variety ProSiebenSat 1 is arguably “the most successful turnaround in European broadcast TV in recent years.”

An overhauled management team under Guillaume de Posch and some astute programming choices, both local fare and Hollywood acquisitions, combined to boost the company during the last three years.

For EMI, however, the deal looks like bad news. EMI’s stock price plummeted 8% to $5.40 in London after the world’s third-biggest music company revealed it had pulled out of takeover talks with potential suitor Permira.

The ProSiebenSat 1 sale must be approved by German regulators.

It would pave the way for KKR and Permira to merge ProSiebenSat 1 with their Luxembourg-based SBS Broadcasting group, Europe’s second-biggest broadcaster.

Indeed, Permira partner Gotz Mauser said in the official statement that a possible business combination with SBS Broadcasting “could be considered,” though he stressed that ProSiebenSat 1 itself will remain headquartered in Munich.

The merger apparently won the support of ProSiebenSat 1 execs, who see the company expanding from a German broadcaster to a pan-European player rivaling Bertelsmann’s RTL Group.

It also would allow the combined company to cut production costs and increase ad revenue.

The takeover would give KKR and Permira access to Europe’s biggest ad market as well as other prime continental territories.

In commenting on the sale, Bavarian state Premier Edmund Stoiber underlined the importance of a ProSiebenSat 1-SBS union for his state.

The acquiring firms beat out Turkish media giant Dogan Yayin (in which German publisher Axel Springer was involved), as well as Goldman Sachs and Apax Partners, which presented a joint bid.

Dogan told the Istanbul stock exchange Thursday that its bid for ProSiebenSat 1 had been rejected, saying it had “come in second.”

KKR and Permira took over SBS for an estimated e1.7 billion ($2.2 billion). SBS operates 19 free TV stations, 20 pay TV channels and 16 radio networks in 11 European countries, while ProSiebenSat 1 runs five free TV outlets and two pay TV channels in Germany.

Market leader RTL, Bertelsmann’s most profitable unit, has interests in 34 TV channels and 34 radio stations in 11 European countries.

Having made his fortune with the “Power Rangers” TV series and from the 2001 sale of his 50% stake in Fox Kids, Saban reportedly has been eager to sell his stake in ProSiebenSat 1, in part to pay some $300 million in unpaid taxes to the IRS in connection with his investment in an offshore tax shelter.

(Elizabeth Guider in Hollywood contributed to this report.)

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more