Business

Investor Group to Acquire Majority Stake in Univision, Wade Davis to Become CEO

Univision Los Angeles Headquarters
Mike Nelson/Epa/Shutterstock

Univision Los Angeles Headquarters

An investor group led by former Viacom CFO Wade Davis has agreed to acquire a 64 percent majority stake in Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications for an undisclosed sum.

The group is made up of private equity firm Searchlight Capital and media- and consumer technology-focused operating and investment company ForgeLight, which Davis launched as CEO in December after leaving Viacom due to its recombination with CBS to form ViacomCBS. Davis set to run Univision as CEO upon deal close.

Mexican TV giant Televisa has elected to retain its stake of about 36 percent. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed. 

Univision emphasized that its program license agreement with Televisa "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 seven and a half years." The agreement, which Univision called one of its "most strategic assets," provides the company exclusive access to Televisa's content library, which it says is the largest Spanish-language video library in the world.

The deal, which is subject to "customary closing conditions, including receipt of regulatory approvals," is expected to close later this year.

"I am honored to be partnering with Televisa and Searchlight to help steward Univision into this next phase. Univision’s leadership and connection with one of the most important audiences in the U.S. today creates an amazing platform to drive innovation, build market-defining content and create an even deeper relationship with its audience," said Davis. "Vince and the entire Univision team have done an outstanding job of refocusing the company over the past 18 months, which has further enhanced the company’s position as a market leader in Spanish-language media and created this incredible opportunity going forward."

Sadusky has been running the firm as CEO since Randy Falco retired at the end of 2018. While Univision under Falco had been acquiring English-language assets like the Onion, Lifehacker, Deadspin and Jezebel, under Sadusky, Univision has shed those businesses.

Last summer, Univision said it would entertain offers from potential buyers as part of an exploration of "strategic options" and engaged advisers. It said Tuesday that Morgan Stanley, LionTree Advisors and Moelis & Co. are acting as its financial advisors, with Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Covington & Burling and Sidley Austin serving as legal counsel.

Univision has been privately owned for more than a decade. Its investors, including Saban Capital Group, Madison Dearborn Partners and Providence Equity Partners, have been seeking at least a partial exit for a while and previously considered an initial public offering before market conditions changed their mind.

Univision was hoping an IPO might have valued the company at $20 billion, and it had in 2017 turned down an offer of up to $15 billion from John Malone, who controls Lionsgate, SiriusXM Radio and other media assets.

"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," Sadusky said. "Our talented operating team has transformed Univision to be strategically, operationally and financially stronger than it has been in years."

"Televisa has a shared history with Univision dating back many years and a deep strategic relationship today," Davis highlighted. "The context, insight and strategic content that Televisa brings to Univision have been key to the company’s success." And he touted the acumen of the new investors, saying: "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."

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.