Banijay to go public as Stéphane Courbit engineers takeover deal

Rogue Heroes

Banijay is to become a public company after owner Stéphane Courbit unveiled a plan to roll the MasterChef and Big Brother production outfit into a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

The France-based firm, which owns more than 120 labels in 20 countries, is being moved into FL Entertainment, which will also house Courbit’s online gambling firm Betclic.

FL Entertainment is merging with SPAC Pegasus Entrepreneurs, which has been backed by European investment firm Tikehau Capital and Financière Agache.

Banijay’s new owner, which will retain its FL Entertainment name, is being backed by existing investors in the production group including Bernard Arnault and Canal+ owner Vincent Bolloré, with the company valued at €4.1bn ($4.3bn) without debt.

Survivor

Shares will start trading in July on The Netherlands’ index Euronext, with the new entity also receiving around €600m in new investment. It means Vivendi will own 20% of shares, Monaco-based Société des Bains de Mer holding 10% and Fimalac with 7%.

Timeline & transaction

The deal comes less than two years since Courbit completed the $2.2bn acquisition of Endemol Shine Group, which left Banijay with large debts.

Banijay was then owned by French duo LDH (67.1%) and Bolloré’s Vivendi (32.9%). LDH is a holding company controlled by Financière LOV (52%), the investment firm controlled by Courbit. Italian group De Agostini (36%) and French finance group Fimalac are also investors in LOV and, now, in FL Entertainment.

The listing will allow Courbit to refinance those debts, with investors able to buy into Banijay’s huge production and distribution operation that range from US-based Bunim/Murray Productions and Endemol Shine North America, to UK-based Tiger Aspect, Spain’s Cuarzo Producciones and Mastiff in the Nordics.

The company, which made almost $3m in sales last year and had EBITDA of around $450m, also operates sales arm Banijay Rights and controls shows ranging from Survivor and Hunted to Rogue Heroes, Black Mirror and Mr Bean.

Hunted (UK)

Courbit, chairman of FL Entertainment – which is controlled by his Financière LOV outfit and François Riahi – described the move as “a milestone”. He added: “As a result of the transaction, the group will benefit from a robust balance sheet and will be very well positioned to capture growth in the entertainment industry.”

Banijay CEO Marco Bassetti said the deal had “created new opportunities for Banijay to grow and maintain” its position in the market.

Background & context

Banijay was founded by Courbit through his LOV group, with Italian conglomerate De Agostini. The production and distribution company has bought numerous firms over recent years, including Zodiak Media in 2016, again with the assistance of French media giant Vivendi.

Three years later it struck a deal to buy ESG, which had been formed five years prior when Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Group, owned by 21st Century Fox, was combined with format giant Endemol and US counterpart Core Media. The latter two were both owned by investment firm Apollo Global Management.

Core was later hived off, eventually emerging as a slimmed-down producer after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Disney picked up the 50% stake in ESG after acquiring a raft of entertainment assets from Fox in 2019, with Banijay formally closing its acquisition of EndemolShine a year later.

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