Endeavor has struck a deal to sell a majority stake in its Endeavor Content studio to South Korean media giant CJ ENM, the company behind films like Parasite and Snowpiercer, for $775 million.
The deal values the company at $850 million. Endeavor will retain a 20 percent stake in Endeavor Content and is also holding on to its non-scripted and film sales divisions. (The Wall Street Journal first reported the deal news Thursday.)
In an interview with THR in August, Endeavor president Mark Shapiro said that “it’s bittersweet to sell 80 percent of this business,” noting that the studio has “hundreds of shows” in development or in production. Endeavor Content projects have included Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, and Killing Eve, among others.
However, the owner of WME and UFC had little choice in the matter, having agreed to divest at least 80 percent of its stake under the terms of a deal struck with the Writers Guild of America earlier this year. That deal allowed WME to once again represent writer clients, but required that the company give up control of its owned studio, and phase out packaging.
WME is not the only agency to divest studio assets. CAA sold a majority stake in its studio, Wiip, to another South Korean entertainment giant, JTBC, in June. Wiip produced HBO’s Mare of Easttown and Apple TV+’s Dickinson, among other projects. As with Endeavor, CAA was bound by a deal it signed with the WGA.
Endeavor Content was a driver of the company’s strong third-quarter results, with increased deliveries of TV shows helping push the company to a profit.
“We are excited to announce this deal with Endeavor Content, a company that is growing at a remarkable speed in the U.S. and European markets,” said Kang Ho-Sung, CEO of CJ ENM. “We are confident that this deal will create synergy between both companies, globally acknowledged for their production capabilities and list of hit IP properties.”
And the CJ ENM boss highlighted: “At the end of the day, CJ ENM strives to become a major global studio that encompasses content that appeals to a global audience … we will continue to expand our presence in the global market.”
The planned sale by Endeavor, which is led by CEO Ari Emanuel, also comes just six months after the company went public in an IPO, with a heavy emphasis on its own sports businesses, such as UFC, and on its live events division.
“Four years ago, we set out to build a talent-first studio that prioritized greater creative freedom and ownership,” said Emanuel. “Graham Taylor, Chris Rice and the entire Endeavor Content team delivered on that promise, and this transaction further underscores the enduring value of talent and premium content.”
While Endeavor was forced to sell Endeavor Content, the sale also comes amid a flurry of M&A activity in the media and entertainment sector.
Reese Witherspoon sold a majority stake in Hello Sunshine to a holding company founded by former Disney executives Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs. Staggs and Mayer also purchased the company behind kids programming stalwart Cocomelon, and also held talks about buying Westbrook Studios, the company founded by Will Smith. Meanwhile, SpringHill, the content company founded by LeBron James and Maverick Carter, has been in discussions about a minority investment from RedBird Capital.
“We’ve had a couple of presentations and are getting books out to qualified buyers,” Shapiro said of Endeavor Content, noting that Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine sold a majority stake that valued the company at $900 million.
CJ ENM, meanwhile, has been making inroads in Hollywood, with vice chair Miky Lee leading that charge. Lee told THR last year that the company was embarking on a plan to produce a handful of English-language films or series per year. Acquiring Endeavor Content is all-but-certain to supercharge that effort.