CJ ENM came in with most attractive bid for 80% of the production-distribution unit out of a wide field of financial and strategic suitors, a source close to the situation said. The Wall Street Journal first reported news of the negotiations between Endeavor and CJ ENM.
Endeavor Content, headed by Chris Rice and Graham Taylor, has about 200 full-time employees. The plan is for those two to continue to run the company from its Los Angeles base.
Endeavor Content was formed in 2017 to rev up the content production side of Endeavor, but the move helped spark a two-year fight with the Writers Guild of America over conflict of interest concerns because the company also owns Hollywood’s largest talent agency, WME. In January, Endeavor reached a settlement with the WGA that called for it to divest the majority of its interest in the scripted film and TV operations of Endeavor Content, which has co-produced such series as “Killing Eve” and “The Night Manager.”
An Endeavor representative declined to comment. A rep for CJ ENM could not immediately be reached for comment.
CJ ENM is a major player in South Korea’s expanding entertainment sector. The company’s intense focus on expanding its content production capabilities has been one of the big draws for Endeavor. CJ ENM’s entertainment division produces TV shows and movies, including Bong Joon-ho’s 2019 Oscar winner “Parasite.” It has a music wing that has helped spread K-pop sounds beyond Korea’s borders, as well as performing arts and live event operations. The company also runs a massive ecommerce platform CJ OnStyle.
Endeavor will hold on to the film sales, film advisory and unscripted content operations of Endeavor content. Endeavor’s deal with the WGA bars WME from being aligned with a parent company that owns more than 20% of a production-distribution operation. But it does not bar Endeavor from producing projects that don’t involve WGA members.
Sources close to the situation said Endeavor had no shortage of interest in the auction process that was handled in part by Raine Group. A number of media-focused private equity groups lined up, but it’s understood that Apollo Global Management and Blackstone did not wind up submitting bids even though both investment giants have have been active in seeking roll-up opportunities for disparate media and entertainment brands.
Blackstone is committed to invest at least $2 billion in a venture run by Disney alums Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs, which in recent weeks made high-valuation bets on acquisitions of Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and children’s content hot-shot Moonbug Entertainment.
Endeavor’s possible sale to CJ ENM comes on the heels of CAA selling its Wiip production entity to JTBC Studios, another Korean production entity with global ambition. CAA was also forced to divest its investment in production as part of its own settlement with the WGA reached in late 2020.