Two investment firms said they would buy a majority stake in Univision, the nation’s biggest Spanish-language broadcaster, setting up a new era for the large broadcasting company at a time when traditional media entities are grappling with new ways to reach large audiences.
Searchlight Capital Partners and ForgeLight LLC, two investment firms, will acquire a majority ownership interest in Univision from all stockholders of Univision other than Grupo Televisa, which provides a steady stream of programming to Univision’s media properties. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. There had been an expectation that a sale price could reach as much as $10 billion.
Wade Davis, founder of ForgeLight and the former chief financial officer of Viacom, will become CEO of Univision upon close of the transaction. which the companies said was expected to close later in 2020.
The sale allows a bevy of investors to move on from Univision after a long ownership term that some had hoped to end much earlier. SearchLight and ForgeLight – the latter is an investment vehicle founded by Davis – will purchase a 64 % ownership stake from an investor group that includes Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Saban Capital Group. Grupo Televisa will retain a 36% interest in Univision, and the companies said an agreement to have Televisa provide content “will remain in effect and will not expire unless Televisa voluntarily sells down a substantial portion of its ownership stake, at which point the agreement would remain in place for an additional 7.5 years.” The agreement, a key element of Univision’s overall business, gives it exclusive access to a massive libarry of Spanish-language video content.
Univision’s owners have for years failed to devise an exit as the broadcasting industry has grown more complex to navigate. Vincent Sadusky was named CEO of the company in May 2018, replacing Randy Falco. Univision has in recent years scrapped an expected IPO and bought and then sold off an array of digital-content assets that included Jezebel, Jalopnik, The Root and a minority stake in The Onion.
The large broadcaster faces an era in which more consumers are interested in streaming-video services. NBCUniversal, which owns Univision’s main Spanish-language rival Telemundo, expects to launch the streaming hub Peacock, which will make use of Telemundo content.
The new owners said they intended to accelerate growth, expand the company’s portfolio of advertising products, and enhance its digital presence.
“Televisa has a shared history with Univision dating back many years and a deep strategic relationship today. The context, insight and strategic content that Televisa brings to Univision have been key to the company’s success. I have worked with Searchlight as a limited partner, board member and friend since the team founded the firm. They are among the smartest and most value additive investors in our industry and there is no one I would rather partner with in this transaction,” said Davis in a prepared statement. “This group of owners will be able to support the incredible team at Univision to deliver even more value to its advertisers, distributors and most importantly, its audience.”
Davis, who has a reputation as a steady leader of media companies, decided to leave Viacom in advance of its merger with CBS Corp. late last year. He had functioned as a sort of chief operating officer of that entertainment company under CEO Bob Bakish, but found a similar role was not available to him in the merged entity.