Clear Channel Acquires Minority Stake in Ryan Seacrest Productions

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Will season 11 be ryan Seacrest's last on "American Idol?" The multihyphenate talent is entering the final stretch of a three-year contract extension that pays him $15 million a year to host the No. 1 singing competition, and sources tell THR that the negotiation to keep him will be heated.

UPDATED: Private equity firms Thomas H. Lee and Bain Capital commit up to $300 million to the "American Idol" host's investment holding firm Ryan Seacrest Media for acquisitions.

NEW YORK – Radio giant Clear Channel said Tuesday that it has acquired an unspecified minority stake in Ryan Seacrest Productions, the production company created by American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, giving it a foothold in the TV industry as it looks to push beyond the radio space.

The agreement deepens the relationship between the largest U.S. radio company and Seacrest, who is already a host, producer and spokesman for Clear Channel. Financial terms of the investment weren't disclosed.

Also, funds sponsored by Clear Channel majority investors Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital have committed up to $300 million to working with investment holding firm Ryan Seacrest Media to "identify, acquire and develop innovative media companies, media content and other media properties that can be leveraged to support a range of media enterprises," they said.

RSP will remain creatively autonomous and majority-owned by Seacrest, managed by him as executive chairman together with Adam Sher as CEO and CFO Jeff Refold. It will now collaborate with Clear Channel on the production and distribution of both scripted and unscripted TV programming, as well as other media and entertainment content.

RSP produces the hit series Keeping Up with the Kardashians and the spin-offs Kourtney and Kim Take New York, Khloe and Lamar and Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami. It also produced ABC reality series Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. RSP is currently producing two new reality series - Melissa and Tye: A New Reality for CMT and Shahs of Sunset for Bravo.

Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman, THL managing director Richard Bressler, a former Viacom and Time Warner top executive, and Bain managing director Ian Loring will work with Seacrest and the RSP management team "to maximize the strategic and operational value of the RSP relationship with Clear Channel," the partners said. Bressler and Loring will also work with Seacrest to maximize the RSM investment initiative.

Clear Channel recently changed its name to Clear Channel Media and Entertainment to signal its ambitions beyond radio and named TV veteran John Sykes to help it push into TV and other media. Meanwhile, Seacrest just announced a deal to rebrand HDNet in partnership with Mark Cuban, CAA and AEG.

“We aim to build Ryan Seacrest Media into a leading multi-media company with diversified assets and interests,” said Seacrest. He is repped by CAA, which together with Craig Jacobson at Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren & Richman and Greg Akselrud at Stubbs, Alderton and Markiles negotiated the deals for him.

“Ryan is an unmatched creative talent with success across more media platforms and involvement with a greater variety of programming and venues than anyone else in the industry,” said Pittman.

“Ryan Seacrest is not only an enormous talent as an individual, but a leading business visionary who has his finger on the pulse of the evolving dynamics in the media industry," said Bressler. "He and his business initiatives are quite literally driving the future of how media can create value in ways never dreamed of in prior decades."

Seacrest's Idol contract expires this spring, and both sides have signaled they hope to extend it. Meanwhile, there has also been talk about a role for Seacrest on NBC’s Today show.

Bressler told The Hollywood Reporter that Clear Channel bought a stake in Seacrast's production firm as a natural next step in their relationship. "In Nov. 2010, we did an expanded [multi-year] partnership between Clear Channel and Ryan," he said. "Back then, we started dating, and now we're ready to get married."

Bressler also lauded Seacrest and his success. "He is the hardest working guy in show business, but everybody knows that already," he said. "What really makes Ryan unique is the following: he embodies the tenacity and street smarts of Irving Azoff; he understands, like former Warner Bros. head Bob Daly, that there is never a show without business and the other way round; like Bob Pittman, he has the ability to do 10 things and properly focus on each and every one of them and bring the appropriate level of focus to each and every one of them; and similar to Ted Turner, Seacrest understands what resonates with people on a mass scale."

How does the deeper Clear Channel relationship help Seacrest? ""What people haven't focused on enough is the power and resources of Clear Channel and the ability to do something together when taken with Ryan’s understanding of what consumers want," said Bressler. "This gives unparalleled power to promote content. Clear Channel reaches over 230 million people a month. That gives us the ability to deliver a Super Bowl to advertisers each and every week."

Bressler wouldn't disclose how Thomas H. Lee and Bain may help Seacrest invest in new opportunities via their investment fund, but he said the partners already have first ideas. "We already are consideringa list of potential investment opportunities, but I can't give you names," he said. "There is a wide range of things that we and Ryan together can bring value to, including scripted and non-scripted entertainment, original content created for digital distribution, music, and the list goes on and on.  We also expect to look at opportunities outside the United States.”


Twitter: @georgszalai