|Univision HQs, Los Angeles|
The L-A Times reports the finale of the months-long auction came early Tuesday when former Viacom executive Wade Davis and private equity firm Searchlight Capital Partners announced that they were teaming up to acquire 64% of Univision for an undisclosed price. The new investors hope to restore luster to the broadcaster known for its over-the-top telenovelas and star news anchor Jorge Ramos.
And, in a telenovela-like twist, Mexico City media giant Grupo Televisa will retain its nearly 36% stake in Univision. Televisa’s founder helped launch Univision with a single Texas TV station in 1961, and the company has long been a key stakeholder and supplier of the spicy soap operas that run in prime time.
The sellers, including Los Angeles billionaire Haim Saban, initially had been seeking $10 billion for the Miami-based company — significantly less than the $13.7 billion they paid in 2007 when they bought an emerging Spanish-language powerhouse from the late Jerrold Perenchio and his Latin American partners.
But years of infighting, management misfires and changing demographics took a heavy toll, according to The Times.
Millions of viewers still turn to Univision for news and entertainment, and the company has long served as a champion of immigrant rights. But the audience for Univision’s flagship TV network, which draws about 1.4 million viewers in prime time, is half what it was a decade ago. Univision’s television, radio and digital outlets compete with Netflix, YouTube and Spotify, along with English-language networks.
The deal was expected. Davis, the former chief financial officer of Viacom, departed that company in early December when Viacom completed its merger with CBS Corp. The former investment banker, who spent nearly 14 years at Viacom, owner of MTV, Comedy Central, BET and Nickelodeon, made it clear last summer that he would be leaving Viacom with the merger. Davis, 47, formed his own firm, ForgeLight LLC, in December.