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Sloan, Sagansky take to the skies

Global Eagle inks $430 million deal

Longtime showbiz execs Harry Sloan and Jeff Sagansky are moving into the inflight entertainment business.

The duo’s Global Eagle Acquisition is acquiring two companies — U.S.-based broadband service Row 44 and Germany-based content supplier Advanced Inflight Alliance — in a transaction valued at $430 million.

The deal, announced Thursday, comes 18 months after Global Eagle raised $190 million in its initial public offering. Following the closing, Global Eagle will own 100% of the equity of Row 44 and 86% of the shares of AIA. The company will be renamed Global Eagle Entertainment with Global Eagle intending to apply to list its shares of common stock on the Nasdaq under the symbol “ENT.”

“By combining AIA’s access to the installed inflight entertainment market with Row 44’s wi-fi to mobile device capability, Global Eagle has potential access to 100% of the airline passenger experience, creating an addressable market as large as the global airline industry,” Sloan said. “This is exactly the kind of worldwide digital media opportunity we’ve been seeking for Global Eagle since our IPO; and this is also a platform for Jeff and me to utilize our media and content relationships and experience to drive expansion and enhancement of inflight content and programming around the world.”

The new entity has a market value of about $630 million. Edward L. Shapiro — a partner of PAR Capital Management, chairman of Row 44 and chairman of AIA’s Supervisory Board — will become chairman of the new company.

Sloan and Sagansky unveiled Global Eagle in early 2011 after Sloan had departed from MGM in the wake of The Lion completing its restructuring via a pre-packaged bankruptcy. Sloan had been installed as chairman-CEO of MGM for the four years following the $5 billion leveraged buyout of the storied studio in 2005. He was chairman and CEO of SBS Broadcasting between 1990 and 2001.

Sagansky’s currently in charge of Winchester Capital, a private movie and television finance company based in New York. He’s worked for three decade in show business, including serving as president of CBS Entertainment between 1990 and 1994 and as CEO of Paxson Communications between 1998 and 2003.

Terms of the deal call for Global Eagle to buy the AIA shares from PAR Investment Partners, which is also a shareholder in Row 44. AIA will keep its listing on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange with 14% of its shares held publicly.

Row 44’s customers have included Southwest Airlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Transaero and UTair Aviation, Icelandair and Mango Airlines.

Citigroup is lead capital markets advisor to Global Eagle, and BofA Merrill Lynch and Citigroup are providing financial advisory services to Global Eagle. RBC Capital Markets provides advisory services to AIA. Seabury Group LLC is advising Row 44.

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