Milchan high on tech buy

Muse investors acquire stake in Meridian

Arnon Milchan is spearheading a consortium of investors that has acquired a 48% stake in Meridian Audio, a U.K.-based manufacturer of high-end audio and video equipment.

The Israel-born maven behind the Regency film and TV production outfits is heading the Muse Group, which acquired the Meridian stake. Muse investors include former Warner Bros. and Yahoo chief Terry Semel; Australian mogul James Packer; Johann Rupert, chairman of luxury brand group Richemont, which owns Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels; and Nelson Peltz, head of investment group Triarc, which owns Heinz and a stake in Tiffany’s.

Rupert Murdoch is in the mix as well through News Corp.’s 20% ownership stake in Milchan’s Regency film shingle and its 50% interest in the Regency TV banner.

The exact amount Muse paid to acquire the minority holding in Meridian has not yet been disclosed, but reps confirmed it was in the tens of millions of dollars.

Milchan’s Meridian investment is now part of a newly created division dubbed Regency Ventures, which handles all of his investments outside the U.S. film and TV biz. Those include stakes in Israel Channel 10; Baby First TV, a channel aimed at toddlers under the age of 3; and the Israeli Network, an Israeli channel broadcast in the U.S. and Europe.

Meridian was founded in 1977 by Bob Stuart and Allen Boothroyd. The company briefly became part of the KEF/AGI group in the 1980s but returned to indie ownership in 1992.

“The Muse approach was unexpected,” Stuart said. “We are honored that such a uniquely talented and powerful group of individuals perceived the special qualities of Meridian and wanted to support our activities.”

Milchan has experience in the consumer-goods market. He helped relaunch Puma footwear in 1996 before selling his stake in 2003 for a huge profit.

In a short period, Milchan has helped arrange a number of partnerships for Meridian, which already boasted a roster of 500 top-tier clients.

Meridian has launched a joint venture with Ferrari for the F80 home entertainment system, with a further deal with McLaren-Mercedes in the pipelines.

Muse execs scrapped their first-year business plan target of moving 1,400 units after Milchan persuaded Steve Wynn to outfit his Las Vegas hotels with Meridian equipment. The real-estate magnate subsequently ordered some 4,000 units for his properties, according to Milchan.

“It reminds me of exactly how we built Puma,” Milchan said. “We’ve got word of mouth and access to people who understand the connection between the entertainment world and technology. It’s such a fun group to be involved with. When you’re working with James Packer and Rupert Murdoch, it’s a dream team.”

Milchan first discovered Meridian when he was seeking a home entertainment system for his London residence. Taking a cue from Victor Kiam, he liked the system so much he bought the company, assembling friends such as Packer (son of the late Australian media maven Kerry Packer and a Meridian customer himself) to put the deal together.

He is planning to introduce new Meridian lines that will be accessible for consumers, as well as increase awareness for the brand through extensive cross-branding in future Regency film and TV productions.

“Being in a group with this much added value means we can really grow the company with new ranges,” Milchan said. “The first time I went to see the Meridian guys in Cambridge, it was this small, traditional British thing where everything was handmade. I told them their company could be a thousand times bigger. We could turn it into a billion-dollar company.”