Ben Silverman's Propagate Acquires Electus, Majority Interest in Artists First

Ben Silverman and Howard Owens - Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of Shane Strategies

The expanded company will help Ben Silverman and Howard Owens' company to become a full-service global studio.

Propagate, the independent content creation and distribution company founded by Ben Silverman and Howard Owens, has acquired Silverman's former company, Electus, and taken a majority interest in talent management and production firm Artists First (formerly Principato-Young Entertainment) from IAC.

The deal will combine Electus' content, international sales division and library with Artists First's talent roster and hit shows with Propagate's robust content creation capabilities and strategic relationships. Terms of the deal were not announced.

"At Propagate, we are focused on building premium content with the best creative voices from around the world, and being able to support the growth of Electus and all of its partnerships is incredibly exciting to us,” said Propagate co-CEOs Silverman and Owens in a joint statement. “We have had the privilege of working closely with Peter Principato and his team of world-class executives and managers at Artists First and we are looking forward to deeper collaboration as we build an enterprise for the next phase of content creation and distribution. Barry Diller is an incredible entrepreneur who has consistently supported us throughout our careers.”

The deal reunites Silverman with his former team at Electus, including Chris Grant and Drew Buckley. Silverman founded Electus in 2009, with backing from IAC. He departed in 2016 to found Propagate with Owens. Electus currently produces and distributes unscripted series including NBC's Running Wild With Bear Grylls, ABC's The Toy Box and The CW's scripted favorite Jane the Virgin, among others. Since its launch, Electus has acquired production companies including Big Breakfast (Adam Ruins Everything) and Notional (Chopped). Its global international banner has sold more than 4,000 hours of content to more than 220 countries around the world. 

“We are extremely excited to be reunited with Ben and to be part of what he and Howard are building at Propagate,” Electus’ Grant and Buckley said.

Artists First, meanwhile, is a management company led by Peter Principato. The former Principato-Young produces scripted series including ABC's Black-ish and its Freeform spinoff Grown-ish, TBS' The Last O.G. and ABC's The Gong Show. Its client list includes Kenya Barris, Tiffany Haddish, Jordan Peele, WIll Arnett, Awkwafina, John Chu, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kate McKinnon and Regina Hall. The company was founded in 2001 and currently has offices in L.A., New York and Chicago. 

“On behalf of the Artists First Partners, we are thrilled to team back up with Ben and join forces with Howard and the Propagate team,” said Artists First CEO Peter Principato. “Our management and production capabilities seamlessly integrate within the structure of Propagate, representing a fantastic opportunity for our company, our clients and the industry as a whole.”

The acquisitions were finances through a sizable investment secured earlier this year from global merchant bank the Raine Group in a bid to accelerate Propagate's global growth through new ventures and acquisitions. Early investor A+E Networks owns a stake in Propagate. 

The Electus and stake in Artists First comes as Propagate continues to boost its development and producing partnerships after forming a partnership with Authentic Talent & Literary Management. As part of that deal, Propagate acquired a minority interest in the company. 

Propagate president Greg Lipstone and vp finance and corporate development Kelly Fancher negotiated the deal; Raine Group served as an adviser on the deal. IAC was repped by Grubman Shire in the deal.