Propagate, the production banner headed by Howard Owens and Ben Silverman, is in expansion mode with a deal to acquire Electus and a majority interest in management-production banner Artists First.
The deal reunites Silverman with Electus, the company he founded a decade ago with backing from Barry Diller’s IAC. Electus had been quietly shopping for a buyer for the past few months after IAC came to the conclusion that the company largely focused on unscripted programming was not a fit with the rest of its digital-centric operations.
Electus is the producer and distributor of series including NBC’s “Running Wild with Bear Grylls,” ABC’s “The Toy Box,” the CW’s “Jane the Virgin,” and Discovery’s “Darkness,” along with production companies Big Breakfast (“Adam Ruins Everything”) and Notional, producer of Food Network’s “Chopped” franchise. The price tag for Electus was said to be around $35 million, according to a knowledgeable source. Electus bought the interest in Artists Direct (formerly Principato-Young Entertainment) in 2017.
“At Propagate, we are focused on building premium content with the best creative voices from around the world, and being able to support the growth of Electus and all of its partnerships is incredibly exciting to us,” said Silverman and Owens. “We have had the privilege of working closely with Peter Principato and his team of world-class executives and managers at Artists First and we are looking forward to deeper collaboration as we build an enterprise for the next phase of content creation and distribution. Barry Diller is an incredible entrepreneur who has consistently supported us throughout our careers.”
Owens founded Propagate in 2015 with backing from A+E Networks after he left National Geographic TV, where he was president of the U.S. cabler. Silverman, the agent-turned-producer and former NBC Entertainment head, joined Owens as a partner in the company the following year after he parted ways with Electus, headed by his former protege Chris Grant and Drew Buckley.
Silverman’s departure from Electus came as relations between the partners grew strained; now the group is back under the same roof. “We are extremely excited to be reunited with Ben and to be part of what he and Howard are building at Propagate,” said Electus’ Chris Grant and Drew Buckley in a statement.
Propagate recently recruited former All3Media America president Greg Lipstone to serve as a president — a signal that the company was preparing to step up its operations. Propagate, whose portfolio includes the CW’s “Charmed” reboot and Amazon’s “Lore,” recently entered into a development and producing partnership with Authentic Talent & Literary Management overseen by filmmaker Galt Niederhoffer. As part of this transaction, Propagate will also acquire a minority interest in Authentic.
The industry-focused merchant bank Raine Group also recently made a “significant investment” in Propagate recently to help finance the acquisitions. A+E Networks still has a stake in Propagate.
The acquisition of Artists First continues the trend of content-focused companies acquiring talent representation firms. Lionsgate earlier this year bought 3 Arts Entertainment, one of the industry’s largest management-production shops. The move reflects the heightened chase for top-tier talent and the interest in aligning with companies that have the closest professional ties to marquee players in the creative community.
“On behalf of the Artists First Partners, we are thrilled to team back up with Ben and join forces with Howard and the Propagate team,” said Artists First CEO Peter Principato. “Our management and production capabilities seamlessly integrate within the structure of Propagate, representing a fantastic opportunity for our company, our clients and the industry as a whole.”
Raine served as an adviser on the deal to Propagate. IAC was represented by Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks. ACF handled the sale process on behalf of Electus. Propagate was represented by Covington & Burling.
(Pictured: Ben Silverman and Howard Owens)