'Big Brother' Producer Endemol Eyeing 'The Voice' Maker Talpa

 

COLOGNE, Germany -- Dutch TV group Endemol, producer of Big Brother and Deal or No Deal, is eyeing a possible merger with Talpa Media, the production group owned by Endemol co-founder John de Mol and producers of music format The Voice.

Rumors of a possible hook-up between the two Dutch giants have been part of the local media chatter for years, but the buzz got louder Tuesday after Endemol CEO Just Spee told a Dutch newspaper a merger between Talpa and Endemol "makes sense."

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“We are talking with Talpa about our strategy,” Spee was quoted as saying in Dutch financial daily FD." We are looking at Talpa, and they are looking at us. That is logical. But it is not certain yet it will come to a merger."

A spokesman for Talpa told The Hollywood Reporter that the company is not in merger talks with Endemol, but that Endemol "is an option as a partner to cooperate with," particularly in international territories. The spokesman added, however, that Talpa also is looking into other options, including "setting up our own Talpa businesses in important markets or cooperating with another international [company]."

Just a few months back, Endemol was a financial basket case: more than $3 billion in debt and a takeover target. Goldman Sachs and Silvio Berlusconi's Italian conglomerate Mediaset, Endemol's largest shareholders, were looking to take full control of the company and reportedly were against a merger with Talpa.

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But the situation at Endemol has changed dramatically. The group has restructured the bulk of its debt and is now under new ownership, with Dutch asset manager Cyrte and private-equity group Apollo Global Management holding majority control. Goldman Sachs has greatly reduced its stake, and Mediaset said last month that it sold its final shares in Endemol for about $94 million.

De Mol is one of Cyrte's main investment clients, making an Endemol-Talpa tie-up seem more plausible. A merger would come at a good time for both companies. Endemol could use the boost Talpa's fresh formats like The Voice would give it. And de Mol's fast-expanding company needs a stronger international distribution network like Endemol's to better exploit its properties.

Back in 2007, Talpa and Endemol launched an ambitious joint venture that would have seen the two companies set up co-owned production outlets in Endemol's major markets around the world. But the plans came to naught, and Talpa and Endemol dissolved the joint venture less than a year later. 

FD quoted Spee as saying Endemol needed to complete its debt restructuring before any "strategic steps" could be made, including a possible merger with Talpa.

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