Fox, Apollo Complete Deal to Combine Shine, Endemol, Core Media

Courtesy of BSkyB
Sophie Turner Laing will run the new company as CEO

The three-way venture will be led by former BSkyB content executive Sophie Turner Laing as CEO

Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox and Apollo Global Management have finalized a deal to combine Fox's Shine Group with Apollo's Endemol and Core Media Group to create a TV production powerhouse amid continued industry consolidation.

The three-way venture, which will be the largest independent TV production company in the world, will be led by former BSkyB content executive Sophie Turner Laing as CEO. She used to work for BSkyB, in which Fox owns a 39 percent stake, as managing director of content. Fox and Apollo will jointly manage the newly created group, with each owning 50 percent.

“This partnership advances our strategy of accelerating 21st Century Fox’s growth in worldwide television production,” Chase Carey, 21st Century Fox COO, said in a statement. “The combination of these assets will create a leading global format business with a deep and diverse portfolio of products, enhanced distribution capabilities, and world-class creative talent. We are extremely grateful to Alex Mahon for her leadership of Shine and are delighted to partner with Apollo in supporting Sophie Turner Laing, and the talent at Shine, Endemol and Core, in our shared mission to form an unrivalled team to lead this truly global content creation business.”

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Laing added: "I am delighted to join the extraordinary collection of talent at Endemol, Shine and Core. Content has never been more creatively vibrant and exciting and our exceptional production and distribution capabilities will be a magnet for talent to realize their creative ambitions across all platforms on a regional and global scale."

Endemol has been run by CEO Just Spee, while Shine's CEO is Alex Mahon, with Murdoch daughter Elisabeth Murdoch serving as non-executive chair. Spee and Mahon will remain with their respective companies during a transition period but will step down in 2015 to pursue new opportunities.

“It’s been a genuine privilege to lead Endemol and its exceptional team of talent during my time as CEO. Throughout this period the business has continued to thrive; delivering new global hits, expanding into new markets and adding new dimensions in areas such as scripted programming, distribution, digital video and more. All this has occurred against the backdrop of a major restructuring of inherited debt and some of the strongest economic headwinds the global market has ever witnessed,” Spee said in a statement. “With Endemol about to embark on a new chapter, it’s time to transition the business and accelerate its investment into the future. The company couldn’t be in better hands with Sophie Turner Laing at the helm; and I’m incredibly proud to be transitioning a business so strongly positioned, with what looks to be one of the most exciting periods in its history ahead.”

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Mahon said: “Shine has grown consistently over the last decade to be a dynamic, creative and commercially successful group of 27 companies across 11 countries. This deal enables the next phase of that growth in which I'm convinced our creative talent can prosper and will produce even more brilliant shows. For me, after two major transactions it is the right time to leave to take on a new challenge. I would like to thank every one of my colleagues for the opportunity to help create such an inspiring business. I look forward to working with Sophie to transfer Shine into its next era before leaving.”

After the deal closes, Elisabeth Murdoch will step down from Shine Group.

"As Shine enters this new chapter with new partners, it is the right time for me to take the final step back from the company I love,” Elisabeth Murdoch said in a statement. “It has been an immense pleasure and privilege to work with such extraordinary talent in a shared endeavor to create a unique and outstanding television company. I will be eternally grateful to everyone at Shine Group for their dedication to the pursuit of excellence. I leave with lifetime friendships and admiration for a company I am proud to have been a part of."

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Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Core will retain its own capital structure despite being part of the new venture.

In a statement, Apollo senior partner Aaron Stone said: “It is a particularly opportune time to bring together three extraordinary companies, establishing one of the most innovative and diverse content creators in the world. The group will have impressive capabilities to offer the creative community and to invest in all aspects of media's future. At the heart of this partnership are the businesses’ thousands of employees around the world. We are thrilled to collaborate with them and with 21st Century Fox and we are especially thankful to Just Spee for his extraordinary leadership of Endemol on its journey to success.”

21st Century Fox acknowledged May 15 that it had a preliminary agreement to create a joint venture by combining Shine, a U.K. producer of Biggest Loser and other hit shows, with Big Brother producer Endemol and American Idol parent Core Media. Apollo is a private equity firm with $125 billion in managed assets. Fox stressed in May that "there can be no assurance that the proposed transaction will be completed," but Fox COO Chase Carey recently said he hoped to wrap up the three-way deal in the near future.

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"It will create a big TV production powerhouse with scale and a true international focus, as opposed to the international operations being an outpost of a U.S.-based media giant," an insider previously told The Hollywood Reporter about the rationale behind the deal.

Mahon at a recent conference said that consolidation in the TV production space made sense amid a trend toward more deficit-launched shows. With a big company like Fox as its owner, Shine "can take the deficit," she said. "We wouldn't have had that chance before."

In similar deals for TV producers, Liberty Global and Discovery Communications recently acquired U.K. production firm All3Media, and U.K. TV network giant ITV has continued to acquire U.S. production firms.

Hilary Lewis contributed to this report.

8:40 a.m. This story has been updated with a statement from Apollo senior partner Aaron Stone.

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