Yoshimoto deal enters final stage

Talent agency being taken private by TV networks consortium

TOKYO – The final stage of Japan’s leading talent agency Yoshimoto Kogyo going private is underway, led by a TV networks consortium in a 54 billion yen ($600 million) deal.
The open tender offer for shares ended last week with the Quantum Entertainment consortium in a position to buy 88.5% of Yoshimoto shares at 1,350 yen ($15) each. The outstanding stock is also expected to be acquired and Yoshimoto delisted from the Osaka and Tokyo exchanges.
The Quantum consortium, created for the purpose of taking over Yoshimoto, is headed by former Sony chairman Nobuyuki Idei. The consortium’s largest shareholder, with 15.8%, is Fuji Media Holdings, parent of Japan’s biggest network. The other big three commercial nets, TV Asahi, TBS, and NTV, hold 10.5% each, while TV Tokyo has 5.25%.
There has been speculation as to the rationale behind the deal, which would effectively put the TV nets in control of the agency that completely dominates the lucrative comedy talent sector, and also represents actors and athletes, as well as being involved in numerous other entertainment-related businesses.
The official line from the consortium is that it aims to make Yoshimoto the number one agency in Asia. New media ventures are also understood to be in the works.
“With falling ad revenues for the TV stations, the motivation is also to cooperate with each other rather than just competing to drive rates down as new business areas emerge,” said a source with knowledge of the deal.
The nets are also aiming to control costs more closely in the new climate: and the high fees paid to talent – many of them Yoshimoto comedians – is one area that is coming under scrutiny.
Other consortium stakeholders include mobile carrier Softbank, Yahoo Japan, and Dentsu, one of the world’s biggest ad agencies.
Member companies have stumped up 24 billion yen ($266 million) while the remaining 30 billion yen ($333 million) is being raised from financial institutions.