Kreiz aims to expand Endemol biz

Credit crunch poses challenges for new chief

LONDON -- Newly appointed Endemol CEO Ynon Kreiz might wish he could call on the superpower strengths of his old friends the "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" when it comes to ramping up growth at the global format factory.

The Former Fox Kids Europe CEO has joined the private equity-backed company with a brief to expand its business, home to such global nonscripted juggernauts as "Big Brother" and "Deal or No Deal."

But while the "Power Rangers" had only the evil Rita Repulsa to contend with, Kreiz has the far more challenging task of taking on the corrosive global credit crunch that has squeezed media company valuations across the board.

"The major problem for Endemol's owners is that they bought at the top of a market that has since fallen between 25% and 30%," one person familiar with the buyout said.

The venture was bought out last year for just over $4 billion by Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, Mediaset and John de Mol's investment vehicle Cyrte.

"The new chief executive has to grow the company by that much before he even starts making money for the shareholders. You can either do that with a long-term growth plan or by doing something in acquisitions that is pretty spectacular."

Endemol is understood to have a war chest of around $220 million targeting acquisitions, minimal in terms of major acquisitions, but could raise further cash from its investors.

The newly minted CEO said he plans to grow the international producer-distributor "creatively and commercially," and to expand into scripted fare and further drive Endemol's digital and online presence.

"This is a company that has tremendous growth potential, my job is not about cutting costs or restructuring, it is about expanding," Kreiz said.

"I think that in today's market that content is driving growth."

Like the aforementioned "Power Rangers" -- which formed the backbone of the Fox Kids network -- Kreiz is no stranger to transformation. He built up the pan-European TV business from a virtial startup in the early '90s and more recently since struck gold with investments including Setanta Sports and Codemasters as a partner at Balderton Capital (formerly Benchmark).

His appointment coincides with a roadshow to syndicate the remaining tranche of debt relating to the Endemol acquisition by four of the investment banks involved in the buyout last year.

Goldman's Sanjay Patel, chair of Endemol's exec committee, said Kreiz brought with him a "stellar track record of financial and operational success."