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‘American Idol’ parent CKX may become prize in bidding war

The next winner of “American Idol” might walk off with the biggest prize yet: the show itself.

A bidding war may be on the horizon for CKX Inc., the media and entertainment company whose holdings include 19 Entertainment, producer of the Fox hit “American Idol,” as well as a majority stake in Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion.

Simon Fuller, the creator of “American Idol” who until earlier this year was a senior executive and board member at the company, is the latest to throw his hat into the ring over the fate of CKX.

Fuller is teaming up with financier and former Barclays banker Roger Jenkins on a $600-million bid for CKX, a person close to the situation said. CKX confirmed receiving an offer from Fuller on Friday but did not provide any details.

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Fuller’s offer comes two months after CKX was approached by One Equity Partners, a private-equity arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co. that has recruited Hollywood veteran Allen Shapiro, president and chief executive of Mosaic Media Group, as part of its effort. The offer from One Equity was for $550 million, a person close to that group said.

Also expected to make a run at CKX is its founder, Robert F.X. Sillerman, who resigned as chairman and CEO of the company this month. At the time, Sillerman said he was considering a bid for the entertainment and licensing firm. Sillerman could not be reached for comment.

A competition between Fuller and Sillerman for CKX would be a new twist for the onetime business associates. CKX bought Fuller’s 19 Entertainment five years ago for $200 million. Fuller kept running the company and took a seat on the board.

Then, in 2007, Fuller was going to join Sillerman’s efforts to take CKX private, but the duo were unable to raise the cash.

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This year, Sillerman and Fuller appeared to sour on each other. Amid speculation that Fuller was going to try to take over CKX, Sillerman went on the offensive and, in a January interview with The Times, said running a public company would not play to Fuller’s strengths.

“Simon is much more interested in creating things than he is in meeting with analysts and handling the chores of a public company chief executive,” Sillerman said. Just a few days later, Fuller announced his resignation as head of 19 Entertainment and gave up his board seat.

Most of CKX’s revenue comes from 19 Entertainment. In the first quarter, CKX had revenue of $66.6 million, $53.4 million of which was from 19 Entertainment.

The bulk of 19 Entertainment’s revenue is generated by “American Idol,” but there is a cloud over the show. Simon Cowell just ended his tenure as chief judge, and its ratings are in decline. While “American Idol” is still the biggest show on TV, filling Cowell’s shoes is not expected to be easy. And Cowell is launching his own talent show, “The X Factor,” which could further damage the “American Idol” brand.

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CKX also produces Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and owns a management business. The company has $55.1 million in cash and just over $100 million in debt.

joe.flint@latimes.com


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