Japanese internet and technology giant SoftBank Corp. has closed a deal to invest $250 million in Legendary Entertainment — a deal that could be worth as much as $1 billion through 2018, according to shareholders.
As part of the pact, the companies will form a joint venture designed to promote and create business opportunities for Legendary’s films, television shows and digital products, especially in China and India.
Given the kinds of companies SoftBank has invested in — among them, it owns Sprint and Japan’s third-largest mobile carrier — the SoftBank deal particularly points out plans to exploit Legendary’s content across over-the-top mobile platforms.
The move comes days after talks between SoftBank and DreamWorks Animation stalled. The company had been looking at purchasing the animation studio in a deal valued at around $3.4 billion.
Legendary has backed such films as “Godzilla,” “The Dark Knight” and “Pacific Rim.” It has a distribution deal with Universal Pictures that began this year after the company concluded a prior deal with Warner Bros. China has been a focus for Legendary, which had a hit in the market with “Pacific Rim.”
The company also has labored to create Legendary East, a joint venture designed to create tentpole films in China. It parted ways with original partners the Huayi Brothers in 2012 and brought on China Film Co. as its cabin-mate in 2013.
SoftBank’s investment will close this month, subject to certain conditions. In addition, SoftBank vice-chairman Nikesh Arora, who also serves as the CEO of SoftBank Internet and Media Inc., will be appointed to Legendary’s Board of Directors.
“Our goal at SIMI is to leverage SoftBank’s international platform and network of Internet and media partners to accelerate content creators’ digital strategies and extend their global reach,” Arora said. “Legendary is already a content powerhouse and we are very excited to make this investment and help them bring their incredibly successful film franchises and other exciting new media content to an even larger global audience.”
Arora joined SoftBank this summer from Google, where he was the company’s highest paid employee and served as its chief business officer.
Softbank has invested in a number of technology and internet companies such as Alibaba and Yahoo Japan.
The Raine Group LLC acted as financial advisor and Morrison & Foerster LLP acted as legal advisor to SoftBank. Martin Willhite, COO & General Counsel represented Legendary and O’Melveny & Myers LLP acted as outside legal advisor.
“Masayoshi Son has built SoftBank into one of the world’s most respected companies,” said Legendary chief Thomas Tull. “With the arrival of Nikesh and the launch of SIMI, they have a great opportunity to extend their reach into media and entertainment. We are excited to be one of SIMI’s first partners and look forward to working together to deliver the next phase of Legendary’s growth.”