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Mediawan Closes In on Acquisition of Dimitri Rassam’s ON Kids & Family

Mediawan, a special-purpose acquisition company headed by media industry veterans Xavier Niel, Matthieu Pigasse and Pierre-Antoine Capton, is in exclusive talks to acquire a majority stake in Aton Soumache and Dimitri Rassam’s ON Kids & Family.

Under the deal, which is estimated in the €100 million ($117.4 million) range, Mediawan would inject €15 million in equity capital into ON Kids & Family, France’s No. 1 producer of animated series and one of Europe’s leading producers of big-budget independent animated features.

The indie banner has a track record in producing franchise-based films and series, notably Mark Osborne’s “The Little Prince,” the Cesar- and BAFTA-winning feature which was released in more than 120 countries and grossed $120 million worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing French-made animated film overseas. ON Kids & Family’s “Playmobil” movie, budgeted at $80 million, is being directed by Lino Di Salvo (“Frozen,” “Raiponce”) and will be released in April 2019.

Mediawan would own 51% to 54% of ON Kids & Family. Soumache, who is ON Kids & Family group president, CEO and co-founder, would stay at the helm of the company and retain a 46%-to-49% share, along with the banner’s co-founder Rassam.

“As we’ve just seen with the Disney-Fox merger – the latest in a flurry of mergers – it has become crucial for independent companies to join forces in order to accelerate our growth, be competitive and deliver world-class content that will feed the increasing demand, notably from global services like Netflix or Amazon,” Soumache told Variety.

The French exec said he sees Capton, Pigasse and Niel as the ideal partners to join forces with because they each excel in their fields (telecom/tech innovation, financing and production) and “share our strategic vision, entrepreneurial spirit and international ambitions,” said Soumache.

Niel is the founder of Lliad, the company that operates France’s third-biggest telco group, Free, while Pigasse is the CEO of Lazard Banque and the founder of Les Nouvelles Editions Independantes, which owns Le Monde, Les Inrocks and Nova Radio. Capton owns Troisieme Oeil Productions, France’s No. 1 independent TV producer.

The deal with Mediawan would open a new chapter for ON Kids & Family. The outfit, which has about 500 employees across its offices in Paris, Montreal, Luxembourg, Los Angeles and India, will soon be expanding its footprint in China with the launch of an office and a potential deal with a Chinese operator. ON Kids & Family will also likely sign a pact with a streaming service to distribute its programs.

Through this strategic pact, Mediawan aims to become one of the world’s top independent players in animated content, leveraging ON Kids & Family’s library of brands and relationships with some of the largest international TV and film groups, including studios, indies, broadcasters, pay-TV channels and streaming services.

“This operation is a milestone that will enable us to significantly accelerate our development strategy in the production of premium content while marking our arrival on the buoyant animated films and series market, which represent strategic avenues of expansion for Mediawan for the coming years,” said Capton, Mediawan’s chairman.

He added that Soumache, Rassam and Thierry Pasquet, another ON Kids & Family shareholder, have “accomplished remarkable work in making ON Kids & Family a globally acclaimed animated content player.”

Earlier this year, Mediawan acquired French production company CC&C, Clarke Costelle & Co., the outfit behind the historical documentary franchise “Apocalypse,” which garnered record ratings on French public broadcaster France 2 and sold to more than 165 countries.

Back in January, Mediawan made its first acquisition with AB Groupe, a French production, channels and distribution player AB Groupe. The deal was estimated at €270 million.

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