Saban group finalizes Univision deal

Consortium paid $36.25 a share

A private equity consortium including Haim Saban completed its acquisition of Univision Communications, the leading Spanish-language broadcaster in the U.S.

Now, management led by former ad agency chief Joe Uva will be tasked with getting higher ad rates out of Madison Avenue and settling a long-simmering dispute with the net’s largest programming supplier, Mexico-based Televisa.

The buying group, which consists of Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Saban Capital Group, completed the transaction Thursday for $12.3 billion, or $36.25 a share.

As a result, Univision was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange and became a private company. Chairman A. Jerrold Perenchio stepped aside for Uva.Uva, former CEO of media firm OMD, takes over a broadcast network that is No. 5 in the ratings and routinely beats the English-language networks in younger viewers, but hasn’t been able to draw ad rates from Madison Avenue commensurate with its reach.

“His biggest challenge is to bring more advertisers to Hispanic media –of the 300 network advertisers, they have only 133, less than half,” said Miami-based Hispanic media consultant Julio Rumbaut. “The second challenge is to try to mend fences with Televisa, which continues to be the heart and soul of Univision, providing the majority of its primetime programming.”

Televisa filed a lawsuit in 2005 seeking to end its programming and licensing agreement with Univision that runs through 2017; trial is set for Oct. 30. Should Televisa prevail, Univision would lose its highly rated primetime telenovelas.

Televisa topper Emilio Azcarraga Jean is still sore over losing out in his bid to acquire Univision, which was founded by Azcarraga’s grandfather but stripped from Mexican control in the ’80s under new rules limiting foreign ownership of U.S. broadcasters.

Televisa exec VP Alfonso de Angoitia has said he hopes the new management at Univision will allow the companies to work out their differences, but Televisa refused to hold onto its 11% stake in Univision. As part of Thursday’s transaction, Televisa received more than $1 billion, significantly increasing the debt load on Saban’s group.

On Tuesday, Univision cleared the last hurdle to the acquisition, first announced in June, by settling a $24 million fine with the FCC for not complying with the agency’s rules on children’s programming.