Time Warner eyes Endemol acquisition

Conglom submits bid to buy Dutch TV firm

To bolster its international holdings, Time Warner made an unsolicited bid Friday to acquire struggling Dutch TV production giant Endemol.

Producer of well-traveled unscripted formats, including “Big Brother,” Endemol has been seen as an acquisition target given its debt, estimated at $2.8 billion, which it has been attempting to restructure. The company is owned by Italian conglom Mediaset, Goldman Sachs’ Capital Partners and Cyrte Investments, which is led by Endemol founder John de Mol.

While TW declined comment, an Endemol spokesman confirmed the bid, worth an estimated $1.4 billion. “We have received an approach from Time Warner which doesn’t come as a surprise,” said a statement issued Friday by the production company. “Endemol is performing well and is a highly attractive asset.”

Acquisition could conceivably put Endemol within Warner Bros.’ international TV arm, putting plenty of Endemol formats that have been sold countless times into different regions on the channel lineups of TW-owned channels around the world. Endemol has subsidiaries in 23 countries.

An Endemol deal could extend the overseas shopping spree Time Warner began last year. TW-owned Turner bought Chilean broadcaster Chilevision for $150 million in August 2010; WB snapped up British TV producer Shed Media (“Supernanny”) that same month. Other international acquisitions TW made that year included Sweden’s Millennium Media Group, India’s NDTV Imagine Limited and Bermuda’s Central European Media Enterprises.

Endemol could attract still more suitors. Italian newspaper la Repubblica reported Friday that Mediaset, controlled by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and private equity firm Clessidra may also make a go at a controlling interest in Endemol.