Univision Deal Closes: Investor Group Takes Majority Stake, Wade Davis Becomes CEO

Wade Davis
Dario Acosta/Courtesy of Viacom

Wade Davis

Univision has been privately owned since a $12.7 billion deal in 2007.

An investor group led by former Viacom CFO Wade Davis said Tuesday it has closed its acquisition of a 64 percent stake in Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications.

The group includes private equity firm Searchlight Capital and media- and consumer technology-focused operating and investment firm ForgeLight, which Davis launched as CEO last December after leaving Viacom due to its recombination with CBS Corp.

Davis is now taking over as CEO of Univision, which has most recently been run by Vincent Sadusky who took over the firm after Randy Falco retired at the end of 2018. Mexican TV giant Televisa previously elected to retain its stake of about 36 percent in Univision.

"I am honored to be partnering with Searchlight and Televisa to begin this exciting new era for Univision," said Davis. "Televisa’s strategic insight and global content leadership, coupled with Searchlight’s tremendous experience as a long-term media investor, will help us fully realize Univision’s potential as the leading Hispanic content company in the United States. Univision’s recognized and trusted brand, its consistent performance, and its leadership serving an important and growing consumer audience give us an unmatched opportunity to achieve even greater success."

He added: "We can create even greater value for our advertisers, distributors and investors, and, most importantly, create innovative and compelling content for our audiences. This is a pivotal moment in Univision’s rich history, as the company plays an increasingly important role in educating audiences about key issues relevant to the Hispanic community and encouraging and elevating the dialogue on social justice and equality, while also continuing to provide entertainment when viewers need it most. I couldn’t be more excited to get started. I would also like to thank Haim Saban and all the prior owners for their stewardship of this iconic business."

Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Univision emphasized again that its program license agreement with Televisa will remain in effect, highlighting that it "provides the company exclusive access to the largest Spanish-language video library in the world." And the company added: "Televisa will maintain its ownership interest in Univision and will convert its warrants into common stock."

Eric Zinterhofer, founding Partner of Searchlight, said: "We are confident that Univision’s strong content and leadership in serving the dynamic U.S. Hispanic community positions the company for continued success."

And Bernardo Gomez and Alfonso de Angoitia, co-CEOs of Televisa, said: "We are excited to be part of this new phase of Univision. Wade’s leadership and Searchlight’s support are the catalysts that Univision needs to solidify its position as the leading Spanish-language media organization in the United States in light of the rapid changes that the industry is facing. We are looking forward to an even closer collaboration with Univision to help it implement the many transformational initiatives that Wade has set out to achieve."

Univision has been privately owned since a $12.7 billion deal in 2007. Its investors, including Saban Capital Group, Madison Dearborn Partners and Providence Equity Partners, had been seeking at least a partial exit for a while and had previously considered an initial public offering before market conditions changed their mind. Univision was hoping an IPO might have valued the company at $20 billion. Its owners had in 2017 turned down a takeover offer of up to $15 billion from John Malone.