Endemol's Ynon Kreiz Steps Down as CEO and Chairman

Ynon Kreiz Headshot 2011
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His departure comes after completing three years of high-octane deal-making, restructuring and expansion.

LONDON -- Endemol chairman and chief executive Ynon Kreiz has stepped down from his positions, the company's shareholder board said late Friday night.

The move is understood to be "mutual and amicable" according to those close to the privately held reality production company. It comes following a three year-period during which Kreiz has completed a significant restructure of the Big Brother and Wipeout-producer's creative and geographic operations, as well as diversifying its business lines in a bid to reduce its exposure to the periodic loss of long-term TV contracts.

The departure of Kreiz, a widely respected deal-maker and entrepreneur, will be seen as a significant loss for the company and signals a decision to re-position Endemol's strategy, according to insiders. The decision to part ways is believed to stem from undisclosed differences between the board and the CEO about the future strategic direction of the television and digital media company.

The Dutch-based reality producer -- originally founded by Joop Van Ende and The Voice-creator John de Mol -- was acquired in 2007 by the three-way partnership of Goldman Sachs, Mediaset and Cyrte Investments for $3.4 billion, a year before Kreiz took the helm.

The company has had to grapple with the high level of interest payments relating to the buyout debt that fuelled its acquisition at the peak of the private-equity boom -- and the overhang has put pressure on its capital structures during a period of industry and global downturn. However, sources within the company said talks had begun with lenders over the capital structure and that those issues were separate from operational performance, which remained strong.

Endemol's shareholder board will now begin the search for a new chief executive and have appointed group president and longtime Endemol executive Marco Bassetti and CFO Just Spee to manage the business on an interim basis.

In addition, media industry veteran Charles Allen, a non-executive director of Endemol since 2009 and the former CEO of ITV and chairman of EMI Music, has been appointed to coordinate key actions and decisions.

“Ynon has managed Endemol through an extremely challenging economic environment," said Allen in a statement, adding that Kreiz left Endemol well-placed to deliver for the future.

"Since Ynon joined, the group has strengthened its creative output, diversified its lines of business, completed highly accretive M&A transactions, expanded geographically, reduced its cost structure and entered into new strategic relationships," he continued.

"The Group is in a strong position to achieve future growth and we thank Ynon for his leadership over the past 3 years and wish him well for the future," Allen added.

Kreiz, the former CEO of Fox Kids Europe and investment partner at Benchmark Capital, has significantly re-engineered the global producer/distributor, which has over 6000 employees in 31 countries.

During his tenure Endemol has shifted its creative profile with an expansion into scripted programming -- now accounting for around 25% of the company's revenue.

It has added Money Drop and 101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow to its roster of key shows, and earlier this week announced a production partnership with Simon Fuller's XIX Entertainment on QViva!, the Latin American talent search show fronted by Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony. Later this summer Big Brother will return to U.K. screens following a deal with Richard Desmond's Channel 5.

Endemol has also invested significantly in expanding its distribution business and completed the acquisition of production hubs in multiple markets including Australia's Southern Star, Tiger Aspect and Darlow Smithson in the UK, Authentic in the US, Weit Media in Russia and others.

In a statement Kreiz said he was confident of the company's future prospects.

“I have very much enjoyed my time at Endemol and the entrepreneurial challenges this business has presented. I have worked with an incredibly strong team and our achievements over the past three years leave Endemol well placed to embrace the creative challenges of the future."