Banijay Americas is undergoing a leadership transition as Cris Abrego hands the CEO reins to Ben Samek as he shifts focus to business development and acquisitions for the Banijay Group unit focused on production for North and South America.
Abrego has served as chairman of Banijay Americas and president and CEO of the Endemol Shine imprint since November 2020. With the restructure, Samek will become CEO of Banijay Americas. He had been president and chief operating officer of Banijay Americas since 2018. The Paris-based Banijay Group conglom acquired Endemol Shine in July 2020, a deal that followed on the heels of Disney’s 2019 acquistion of 21st Century Fox, which previously owned Endemol Shine.
Abrego and Samek have worked together for years. Samek was previously COO at Abrego’s 51 Minds production banner, which Abrego sold to Endemol in 2008.
“When I decided to step down as CEO, I knew Ben was the ideal person to take the reins as chief executive of Banijay Americas,” Abrego said. “He has been a key partner to me for more than two decades and I know him to be an extraordinary and results-driven leader with the experience and relationships to drive success both domestically and internationally.”
In addition to Endemol Shine North America, Banijay Americas’ many production labels include top unscripted producers such as Bunim/Murray Productions, Truly Original, 51 Minds, Authentic Entertainment, Endemol Shine Boomdog and Banijay Mexico. Under Abrego’s leadership, Banijay Americas expanded into Spanish-language production and established infrastructure in Mexico, Central and South America. A new studio production facility is set to open in São Paulo, Brazil as Banijay Studios Brasil later this year.
Among the current series on Banijay Americas’ roster are Amazon Prime Video’s “Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrrls,” Fox’s “Lego Masters” and “MasterChef,” History Channel’s “The Men Who Built America” and Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
“It is an honor to step into this role, especially at a moment of accelerated evolution for the entertainment industry and Banijay Americas,” Samek said. “There are tremendous opportunities ahead for our business and I am inspired daily by the extraordinary talent and expertise of our team. I am grateful to Cris, who has been a mentor and friend for many years, and I look forward to the work ahead.”
Abrego’s move to focus on acquisitions follows Banijay Group’s appointment on Monday of Stéphane Préfol as Head of M&A, working under CEO Marco Bassetti. In announcing the appointment of the Publicis Group veteran, Bassetti said the goal was to make the company “more effective in broadening our business offering, building our reputation as a go-to for talent both in content and beyond.”
Here is the memo Abrego sent to Banijay Americas staffers:
I am writing to share an exciting transition with all of you and let you know I have decided to step down as CEO of our company. While I will remain Chairman of the Americas for Banijay, focusing my energy on growing our portfolio through new ventures and acquisitions, I will no longer be involved in the day-to-day running of our business. With this change comes news that is fantastic for Banijay Americas and gratifying for me personally. Ben Samek, who has led our team so effectively as President and COO, takes the reins as Banijay Americas’ chief executive.
Ben has been my partner and friend for nearly a quarter century. In one way or another, we have worked together through various incarnations of our business – first at 51 Minds, then at Endemol Shine North America, and now at Banijay Americas. We’ve been in countless rooms together, too – making pitches, running productions, acquiring new companies, building businesses, and selling them. I know Ben well, and I know that he is the ideal person to take on the role of Banijay Americas’ CEO. A thoughtful, effective leader, he has the wisdom, experience, and relationships to run this company, manage this large and complex business, and support all of you and our production labels. The changes in our roles have been part of my own succession planning since Banijay acquired Endemol Shine in 2020 and appointed me as CEO, and I am happy that the moment for this transition has finally arrived.
While freedom from the day-to-day job of CEO will allow me to devote my energy more fully to other pursuits, I assure all of you, I have no intention of slowing down, or even taking a break. For me, this change means that I will have the time to focus on expanding Banijay’s holdings across the Americas. There is so much opportunity ahead, and I intend to seize it to strengthen our global position.
I thank you for all your support and friendship over years and look forward to the journey ahead.
My best to you,
Here is Samek’s memo:
I am honored to have been appointed Chief Executive Officer of Banijay Americas. As I step into this new role, I am experiencing many positive emotions, but first among them is gratitude. I am indebted to Cris Abrego, my friend and partner of nearly three decades, not only for his trust in me for this job but also for his leadership and mentorship over many years. I am grateful for the culture he fostered here—one of transparency, collaboration, and excellence. I look forward to carrying on that culture with all of you and continuing to work with Cris in his role as Chairman of the Americas for Banijay.
I am grateful too for the leadership provided by Marco Bassetti and Stéphane Courbit and their long-term support of our work here. I am excited to work with them and the team at Banijay Group and represent all of you as CEO for the Americas.
Since Banijay acquired Endemol Shine in 2020 and formed a new Americas group, we have continued to evolve and figure out who we are and how we work best. Together, we employ thousands of full-time and freelance workers on screen, behind the scenes, and in our corporate offices; we develop, produce, and deliver nearly 1,500 hours of content to audiences across two continents; and we set up productions in dozens of locations across the globe, from Sao Paulo to Dubai to the Mediterranean Sea. We are a powerful group of semi-independent production companies with diverse histories and relationships with each other, and our union has yielded extraordinary value.
That brings me to you—the leaders across our company and the incredible teams you manage across two continents. I have already come to know you as the most talented, committed, and creative people in the business. The way that you approach this work and everything that comes with it—the wins and losses, the challenges and opportunities—inspires me. I have tremendous confidence in your expertise, your creativity, your ability to adapt, and your unwavering commitment to the content and to our business. I am thrilled to be on this journey with each of you in my new role as CEO.
Thank you, Obrigado, Gracias!