Meet the Dealmaker Behind Two High-Profile Hollywood Sales

5:00 AM PST 04/02/2014 by Rebecca Sun
Aryeh Bourkoff

Financial adviser Aryeh Bourkoff quietly helped orchestrate Madison Square Garden's 50 percent stake in Tribeca Enterprises and Disney's purchase of Maker Studios in March.

This story first appeared in the April 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Always pay attention to the man behind the curtain. Two major media deals in March quietly were orchestrated in part by the same financial adviser: Aryeh Bourkoff, the low-profile founder and CEO of boutique New York investment bank LionTree.

The Madison Square Garden Co. revealed March 22 that it had taken a 50 percent stake in the Tribeca Film Festival's parent company, Tribeca Enterprises, in a deal that valued the latter at $45 million. Two days later, Disney purchased Los Angeles' Maker Studios in a $500 million deal that could reach $950 million if one of the world's largest multichannel networks hits certain performance targets.

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Tribeca approached LionTree (and fellow financial adviser Evolution Media Capital) last year to find a partner to grow the Manhattan-based indie film company. After a focused search, they identified MSG as an ideal match. "MSG is an iconic New York brand that provides us with an opportunity to expand our programs year-round and nationally," says Tribeca CEO Jane Rosenthal, pointing to MSG's venues, sponsorship and marketing expertise. This year's April 16 festival opener will move uptown to the MSG-owned Beacon Theatre, and Rosenthal hopes to take advantage of MSG's other venues -- which include the Chicago Theatre and The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. -- in the future.

For MSG's part, it gains a diverse addition to its portfolio of brands, which include the New York Knicks and New York Rangers franchises as well as television networks MSG and Fuse. As part of the agreement, the company may increase its stake in Tribeca over time.

It isn't the first time Bourkoff, 41, has brought an independent entertainment company to MSG executive chair James Dolan. As UBS' head of investment banking for the Americas in 2008, he represented the Sundance Channel in its $500 million sale to Dolan's other company, Cablevision.

STORY: Why Disney Bought Maker Studios

"In both cases you had strong branded content that was only operating in specific areas," says Bourkoff of the Sundance and Tribeca deals. "Good content is a great asset, but it always needs a strong platform and distribution to extend it in innovative ways."

That's what Bourkoff sought to do in steering Maker, which reportedly has struggled with profitability, to Disney. He was the only financial adviser on either side of the deal, which will keep Maker separate from Disney's existing business units.

Bourkoff began his 13-year tenure at UBS in research but soon moved to the dealmaking side, where he advised Comcast on its $13.8 billion acquisition of NBCUniversal and Sony on its $2.2 billion purchase of EMI's music publishing business. He launched LionTree in June 2012 with fellow UBS banker Ehren Stenzler, and the young independent firm, which hosts an annual summit for media execs, quickly landed in the top ranks of global M&A financial advisers after taking the lead on Liberty Global's $16 billion acquisition of Virgin Media last year.

"Aryeh's hands-on, and he's got an amazing mind," says Rosenthal. "He's very smart, very thorough, has wisdom beyond his years and is a real mensch."

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