Univision’s sale odyssey is coming to an end. Sort of. The group of private equity investors led by Haim Saban, who purchased Univision Communications in a $13.7 billion leveraged buyout in 2007, has agreed to sell a 64% stake to investment firms Searchlight Capital Partners and ForgeLight, LLC, for an undisclosed sum.
As part of the arrangement, Wade Davis, the former CFO of Viacom and founder of ForgeLight, will take over as Univision CEO, a role currently held by Vince Sadusky since June 2018, once the deal closes.
Televisa will be holding tight to a 36% stake and will continue to provide Univision with exclusive rights to its content. Univision and Televisa are tightly intertwined, with both sharing entertainment and sports content production departments.
“We are a re-energized and refocused company, and today marks the start of an exciting new chapter with partners that recognize the excellent position Univision is in,” said Sadusky, in a statement. “I want to thank our talented employees for their hard work and dedication. I’m so proud of everything we have accomplished that has led us to this great outcome. Both Searchlight and Wade are wholly supportive of Univision’s core mission to entertain, inform and empower Hispanic America and fully embrace the commitment and special bond we have with our audience. Our talented operating team has transformed Univision to be strategically, operationally and financially stronger than it has been in years.”
Univision’s current private equity firm owners – Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Haim Saban’s Saban Capital Group, unsuccessfully tried to take the media company public. Several IPO attempts failed.
Filing for an IPO also meant Univision had to open its books, and the numbers weren’t pretty, revealing multimillion dollar losses in 2015.
A $12 billion bid from Discovery Inc. was rejected in 2017. Univision was hoping to get a $20 billion valuation with an IPO.
Sadusky cleaned house, shed the English-language digital assets bought by the previous administration for a fraction of the purchase price and committed to returning to its “core business” of Spanish-language content.
Last year, he announced the company was exploring a sale.
Today, Sadusky sent the following lengthy message to staff announcing the deal and new leadership following the conclusion of the transaction:
As you know, over the last several months our Board has been reviewing strategic options for the Company. The process has been comprehensive because we have been focused on finding the right path forward. I am excited about today’s news that we have entered into an agreement in which an investment group led by Searchlight Capital Partners and Wade Davis’ ForgeLight will acquire a majority stake in Univision. The firms will partner with Televisa, which will remain a dedicated and important partner to Univision and retain their significant ownership stake.
Searchlight and ForgeLight understand our value and the impact we have on our community. Searchlight is a leading investment firm with a strong track record of investing in, and providing strategic support to, media companies, including Hispanic media. ForgeLight is an operating and investment company focused on the media and technology sectors and Wade is a true media industry veteran – as CFO of Viacom from 2012 to 2019, he has deep experience and a strong track record of success in the media space. Both clearly bring significant media knowledge and resources that will allow us to continue on our strong path forward. As part of the agreement, Wade will assume the role of CEO once the transaction has closed. Until then, I am committed to working closely with the teams to support a smooth and seamless transition.
As I have said to you before, we know that demographic and economic drivers of Hispanic consumers will spur growth in media consumption and spending for years to come, and we have been focused on positioning Univision to best capitalize on this historic opportunity. It is very clear that our new investors strongly admire and appreciate the value of our brand, leading market position and dedicated employee base. Today’s news is a reflection of their belief in Univision and our people.
This positive outcome is in large part thanks to all your hard work. As a team, we have transformed Univision to be strategically, operationally and financially stronger than it has been in years. We have made important moves – strengthened programming, secured many major distribution deals, closed our strongest Upfront in four years, divested non-core assets and enhanced our news, sports, local and digital offerings. Our partnership with Televisa has never been stronger and continues to create an unstoppable, world-class content machine operating at full steam – and that isn’t changing. We are a reenergized and refocused company, and today marks the start of an exciting new chapter. I want you to know that it has been a privilege for me to lead this great Company and to work alongside all of you.
I know you have questions about what this means for you and the future of Univision. Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing more information around our path forward, but in the meantime, it remains business as usual until the transaction has closed. Our goal is to make this transition as seamless as possible, and we will discuss further at our next All Access in the coming weeks.
This is an exciting day for Univision, and I could not be more optimistic about what’s ahead!