'Super-indie' polishing up a deal
U.K. “super-indie” Shine, owned and run by Elisabeth Murdoch, is close to acquiring U.S. shingle Reveille. Shine is believed to be paying some $200 million for Reveille in a unique move by a British indie.Such a deal could elevate Shine — which went on a buying binge last year, picking up three U.K. indie producers — to a global presence in competition with congloms such as FremantleMedia and Endemol. Reveille declined comment, as did NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios co-chair Ben Silverman, who formed the shingle in 2002. Silverman no longer handles day-to-day operations at Reveille, but it’s still his company — and he’s thus playing an active role in its sale. It’s no secret that several companies and private equity firms have been pursuing the wildly successful Reveille for some time. The buzz that Reveille may soon be sold — jeopardizing NBC’s first-look deal with the shingle — persuaded NBC Universal topper Jeff Zucker to aggressively recruit Silverman for a top exec role back in May. “I became aware of the fact that Ben was considering what to do with his career and what the next phase in his life would be,” Zucker said at the time. Others who may have been kicking Reveille’s tires in recent months include former HBO topper Chris Albrecht, who now heads IMG’s global media business but also invests in media companies as a special limited partner with Forstmann Little & Co. Another potential suitor: Endemol. Meanwhile, Murdoch has been aggressively looking at ways to expand Shine’s U.S. business in recent months. Company recently tapped former WB network exec Carolyn Bernstein to head up scripted programs for Shine USA (Daily Variety, Nov. 8). “Liz’s vision is a worldwide scripted/nonscripted format distribution and production enterprise,” said one insider familiar with the negotiations. Owning Reveille will provide Shine, in which Sony Pictures Television Intl. has a 15% stake, with a valuable power base in the U.S. and one with a proven track record in both scripted and alternative fare. Reveille’s series include “Ugly Betty,” “The Office,” “The Tudors,” “The Biggest Loser” and the upcoming revival of “American Gladiators.” Reveille also operates a growing international business — both in formats and distribution — and maintains a deal with MSN on the digital side. It also remains active in the feature world: Reveille Motion Pictures maintains a first-look deal with Universal Pictures. As part of the acquisition, Reveille’s team is expected to remain in place. That includes the quartet that took over the company’s oversight upon Silverman’s move to NBC, managing directors Howard Owens, Mark Coops, Chris Grant and Lee Rierson. Across the Pond, the Reveille acquisition should strengthen Shine’s position as one of Blighty’s biggest shingles in what is a rapidly consolidating sector. Talks between the two parties are understood to have been ongoing for several months, and the sale is likely to be completed before Christmas. The $200 million pricetag dwarfs the $130 million Murdoch forked out a year ago for a trio of U.K. indies including the high-feted drama specialist Kudos, maker of “Life on Mars” (a U.S. version is being adapted by ABC) plus Princess Prods. and Firefly. A Shine spokesman confirmed the company is in “exclusive talks” with Reveille.