Former Viacom CEO Tom Freston Joins Raine Group as Senior Adviser

Tom Freston

Three years ago, Abu Dhabi put on the first-ever Abu Dhabi Media Summit. Now held in October, it is back for its third edition with the likes of WME's Ari Emanuel, YouTube content guru Robert Kyncl, Bill Gates and former MTV and Viacom boss Tom Freston.

The merchant bank launched by Jeff Sine and Joe Ravitch in partnership with WME Entertainment also closes its second fund with $850 million for growth investments in media, entertainment, sports and lifestyle firms.

The Raine Group, a merchant bank focused on technology, media and telecommunications, has added former Viacom CEO Tom Freston as a senior adviser.

The financial company launched by Jeff Sine and Joe Ravitch in 2009 in partnership with WME Entertainment also said Monday it has closed its second fund with $850 million for growth investments in media, entertainment, digital, sports and lifestyle companies.

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Freston is the founder of Firefly3, a media and entertainment industry-focused investment and consultancy firm. Prior to that, he was CEO of Viacom. He was a founder of MTV and led the MTV Networks Group for 18 years as chairman and CEO. Freston currently serves on the boards of DreamWorks Animation, Moby Media and Vice Media. He also is the chair of the One Campaign, an advocacy organization aimed at fighting extreme poverty.

"I'm no stranger to Raine and have watched them build a great and interesting portfolio of companies as well as a deep and very effective network of contacts," said Freston. "They're a first-rate team, and I'm thrilled to take on a more involved role with them."

Freston is one of several senior advisers that Raine has tapped to work with its portfolio companies. They include former Demand Media CEO Richard Rosenblatt, former NFL Network CEO Steve Bornstein, digital media entrepreneur Mika Salmi and Eva Jeanbart-Lorenzotti, founder and CEO of luxury goods retailer Vivre.

Raine on Monday said that it has completed fundraising for Raine Partners II, its second growth equity fund. The fund closed at $850 million, exceeding its initial target of $750 million. Raine Partners I closed in Oct. 2011 and has invested more than $400 million in 12 portfolio companies.

Said Brandon Gardner, president and COO of Raine: "We continue to see significant momentum across our portfolio companies and believe we are well positioned with our global team, strong network of partners and senior advisers, and available capital."

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RPII will pursue the same investment strategy as RPI, "focusing on growth investments in leading digital, media and entertainment, and sports and lifestyle companies," the firm said. The new fund completed its first investment last summer in consumer-licensing company Margaritaville and has more recently invested in fantasy sports firm DraftKings.

Raine’s growth equity investments include South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Important Studios, Vice Media, fitness and lifestyle brand Zumba and action sports company Nitro Circus.

Raine also provides investment banking advisory services, with recent deals that include Steve Ballmer’s acquisition of the Los Angeles Clippers, the sale of STATS by Fox and the Associated Press, the launch of film and television studio STX Entertainment and SoftBank's acquisition of Brightstar.

Twitter: @georgszalai