Guggenheim Partners is looking to make a big impression in Hollywood.
The financial services firm, which in March spent more than $2 billion on the Los Angeles Dodgers, has agreed to acquire Dick Clark Productions for $370 million, people close to the deal said.
Spending almost $2.5 billion in less than six months might be enough for some investors, but Guggenheim's appetite for entertainment assets is still ravenous.
"We would characterize this as the beginning of the beginning," Guggenheim Partners President Todd Boehly said. "We really believe this type of content is going up in value."
What type of content? Live programming, like Dodger games and the annual Golden Globes awards show, which is the most valuable asset of Dick Clark Productions. DCP also holds the rights to the Academy of Country Music Awards and the American Music Awards telecasts.
Such content has risen in value in the age of the digital video recorder. Unlike traditional sitcoms and dramas, big-event programming draws large audiences when it is broadcast live. The 2012 Golden Globes attracted almost 17 million viewers, a large number in today's fragmented media landscape. NBC's telecast of the Super Bowl in February drew a record 111.3 million viewers.
"This content withstands the ups and downs of the market cycle," Boehly said.
Although Boehly declined to comment on what companies Guggenheim might target next, he hinted that the company is not limiting itself to the U.S.: "We have global aspirations."
On the surface there isn't much synergy between Guggenheim — whose partners on the DCP deal include Mandalay Entertainment and Mosaic Media — and DCP. However, Guggenheim is one of the owners of entertainment trade publications Billboard and AdWeek, both of which have their own awards shows — the Billboard Awards and the Clios, respectively. Guggenheim is also an owner of the Hollywood Reporter, which generates substantial ad revenue from awards season advertising.
Still, the $370-million price tag caught many people by surprise. It is more than twice what RedZone Capital Management, a private equity firm headed by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, paid for DCP in 2007.
Several other bidders for DCP dropped out when the bids went north of $300 million, among them CBS Corp.; Core Media Group, a New York production company; and TV and radio personality Ryan Seacrest, who also has a large production company.
Guggenheim's Boehly declined to comment on the purchase price except to say, "I think the price that someone is comfortable paying is what they see being able to do with the asset, and the collection of resources that we have."
Besides the rights to several awards shows, DCP also produces the Fox program "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Rome," a sports talk show that stars Jim Rome and airs on CBS Sports Network.
Mandalay and Mosaic are no strangers to DCP. Mandalay, which is owned by former music and movie mogul Peter Guber, and Mosaic, headed by Allen Shapiro, co-owned the production company from 2004 to 2007 before they sold DCP to RedZone. Guber is also a partner with Guggenheim on the Dodgers.
RedZone put DCP on the block after minority owner Six Flags Inc. indicated that it wanted to cash out of its stake in the television company. Six Flags made that push soon after DCP won a legal battle with the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. over control of the TV rights to the Golden Globes. The HFPA, which owns the Globes, is appealing.
DCP Chief Executive Mark Shapiro had indicated at the start of the auction process that he would leave the company after a deal is closed. Shapiro, who is also a member of Los Angeles Times parent Tribune Co.'s board of directors, indicated that he would continue to work closely with RedZone and Snyder on various projects.
Shapiro is a cousin of Mosaic's Allen Shapiro.