A force in the rise of Hollywood private equity adds a company in Spanish

Candle Media, the private equity-backed company that has invested in firms founded by Hollywood stars like Reese Witherspoon, has settled on its latest target: Exile Content Studio, a producer of Spanish-language movies, TV shows and podcasts.

Candle Media, run by Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs, former top executives at the Walt Disney Company, said Monday it was acquiring Exile in a cash-and-stock deal. Exile’s management team, including founder and CEO Isaac Lee, will join Candle Media.

Executives from Candle Media and Exile declined to disclose the price of the deal. The combined value of the Candle Media deals, which are funded by private equity firm Blackstone, so far total about $4 billion, according to a person with knowledge of the business who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss. the deal. .

In an interview, Staggs said that he and Mayer had focused on Exile because the company would help Candle Media reach a growing Spanish-speaking audience, which he said numbered more than 550 million worldwide. He said the breadth of the company’s content — across streaming, traditional TV, podcasts and music — was also a selling point.

“We think it can open up new opportunities for us with creators that we might not otherwise be able to reach,” Staggs said.

Founded in 2019, Exile produces television shows and movies with streaming services and television networks. His productions include a scripted series for Netflix with “Rogue One” star Diego Luna as showrunner; the children’s program “Club Mundo Kids” for Amazon Prime; and a docuseries about the Spanish soccer team Real Madrid for HBO.

In an interview, Mr. Lee said that he had already started working with Moonbug Entertainment, the Candle Media company that owns the popular children’s TV show “CoComelon,” to explore ideas for shows he planned to host. Exile is also working with Hello Sunshine, the media company founded by Ms. Witherspoon and bought by Candle Media, on a yet to be announced project.

“Integrations in general are very cumbersome and difficult,” said Mr. Lee. “In this case, they are organic, natural, and they work incredibly well.”

Candle Media and Exile began talking about a deal last fall. In November, they reached an agreement on the broad outlines of a buyout, but it fell through for several months as Candle Media was busy exploring and executing other deals.

Candle Media is the most prominent player in the private equity boom that has swept through Hollywood in recent months as investors look to cash in on growing demand for streaming content. Mr. Mayer and Mr. Staggs are betting that intellectual property, the foundation of major movie, TV show, and book franchises, will become more valuable as audiences shift to streaming video and support creators through the purchase of digital goods and merchandise, including NFTs, or non-expendable products. records

Candle Media could sell or go public in a matter of years. Private equity firms generally seek to recover their investments over a period of several years, either through a public offering or by selling them to another company in the same sector.

In addition to acquiring Moonbug and Hello Sunshine, Candle Media bought a stake in Westbrook, a company founded by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. It also acquired ATTN:, a media company that produces short-form news and entertainment content.

The deal is something of a reunion for Mayer and Lee, who in 2013 — when Mayer was at Disney and Lee was an executive at Univision — together launched a cable channel called Fusion aimed at English-speaking Latinos. . The channel was part of an ambitious but ill-fated strategy orchestrated by Mr. Lee to give Univision a foothold among younger audiences.

“The only bright light was meeting him, working with him and understanding his philosophy,” Mayer said.

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