Hicks, Muse spree begins in S. America

IAMP to create Latino network, Chilean station first

MIAMI — Six months after announcing a $500 million investment fund, Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst and Venezuela’s Cisneros Group have made their first purchases — a modest pair of items in Chile, with much bigger things perhaps around the corner.

Having declared that the fund — Ibero-American Media Partners (IAMP) — will create a pan-Latino media network, the two partners are said to be close to several more acquisitions, including a stake in fast-growing Argentine conglom CEI.

The current deal, which includes a Santiago TV station, may also set a precedent: Since Cisneros already owns a Chilean broadcaster, any Latino media property with a For Sale sign outside is presumably a potential target for IAMP.

The move sees IAMP acquire several assets held by Compania Chilena de Comunicaciones. Terms have to be finalized, but local sources say IAMP will take around 75% of three-year old niche broadcaster Rock & Pop and more than 50% of two radio stations, for a total of about $40 million.

Rock & Pop is said to operate at a loss, though it reportedly saw ad sales grow 76% last year. The new owners are said to want to broaden its 13-24-year-olds target demo. Cisneros-owned broadcaster Chilevision, which will assume management of Rock & Pop, also loses money, though last year it saw better sales and less red ink ($3.7 million).

In Argentina, Hicks, Muse has been named to the Buenos Aires stock exchange as a party interested in CEI, which is prepping an IPO. Citibank is offloading its 40% interest in the conglom — which includes stakes in three local broadcasters and the country’s No. 2 MSO — and Hicks, Muse is looking to take about half of that stake.

“We’ll decide if we’re going to go in with Cisneros,” said Hicks, Muse managing director Cesar Baez.

“We’re both contemplating contributing assets to the (IAMP) fund, but we’re focusing for now on building the portfolio,” Baez added.

IAMP is also said to be interested in the broadcast frequency (channel seven) formerly occupied by Argentine pubcaster ATC, due to be auctioned off this year.

Both separately and together, Hicks, Muse and Cisneros are amassing an impressive portfolio of Latino media assets. Hicks, Muse has 20% of top Mexican paybox Multivision and controls Venezuelan MSO Intercable.

Besides Chilevision, Cisneros owns top Venezuelan broadcaster Venevision, 20% of U.S. Hispanic web Univision, 20% of satcaster Galaxy Latin America, a pay TV programmer with three pan-regional channels, top Argentine pay programmer Imagen Satelital, and other media assets.

Also last week, Carlos Bardasano was tapped vice chairman of IAMP, which is based in Miami. Formerly prez of Venevision, Bardasano is replaced at Venevision by the web’s GM, Manuel Fraiz-Grijalba, who is in turn replaced by former retail sector exec Luis Regalado.

— Hans Ehrmann in Santiago contributed to this story.