Saban sets up Hong Kong office for Asian media deals

The US private investment firm seeks to ramp up investments in Asia's media and entertainment industries.
Saban sets up Hong Kong office for Asian media deals

Saban Capital Group, the US private investment company with holdings in media and communications, has launched its first Asia office in Hong Kong, which it will use as a springboard to ramp up its investments in the region.

Saban, which owns stakes in media firms in Indonesia and China, in addition to a shareholding in pan-Asian pay TV channel Tiger Gate, has relocated Sumeet Jaisinghani from its Los Angeles office to run the new Hong Kong operation. He will build and oversee an investment team that will seek deals in the region’s media and entertainment sectors.

The firm says it will pursue a range of deal opportunities in Asia, including growth capital investment and corporate restructuring through recapitalisation. More offices are also planned.                                              

The Hong Kong operation will support the firm’s existing investments in the region, while providing it with a base to execute deals in Asia’s media and communications industries, according to Adam Chesnoff, Saban’s Los Angeles-based chief executive.

Founded in 2001 by billionaire media investor Haim Saban, Saban Capital transacts deals much in the fashion of a private equity firm, including corporate takeovers and acquisitions of minority stakes. However, Saban has no dedicated private equity funds and instead is understood to have invested over the years though a number of private fund vehicles.

Saban’s investment capital comes from Haim Saban’s personal wealth – estimated at $3.5 billion by Forbes – and the profits generated from his previous buyout deals. The billionaire initially built his fortune through his US television production and distribution company Saban Entertainment, which in 2003 took over German media group Kirch Media in a deal worth $5.7 billion.

Despite Saban Capital’s unconventional capital structure in the private equity sector, it has a track record of partnering PE heavyweights for billion-dollar takeovers – or so-called ‘club deals’ – in the entertainment sector.

In 2003, Saban led a consortium comprising Bain Capital Partners, Hellman & Friedman, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Providence Equity Partners, Quadrangle Capital Partners, and Alpine Equity Partners for the $1.4 billion acquisition of leading German commercial TV broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG.  

Saban in 2006 headed a larger club deal with Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners. They collectively took over Univision Communications, the largest Spanish-language broadcaster in the US, for a reported $11 billion.

Saban made its first deal in Asia in 2010, forming a partnership with US film studio Lionsgate to operate Hong Kong-based Tiger Gate, which runs pay TV channels Kix and Thrill in Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia.

Last year, Saban took minority stakes in New York-listed Taomee, a mainland Chinese entertainment company for children, and Indonesian media firm MNC. The financial terms of the deals were not disclosed.

While Saban Capital is perhaps best known for leading big-ticket, billion-dollar acquisitions in the US, it is also known to make much smaller deals – including ones in the venture capital space – and is expected to take a similar size-agnostic approach to investing in Asia, according to an industry observer.

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