Speculation continues to swirl around the future home of global producer/distributor Endemol Shine Group (ESG), with various reports now placing Paris-headquartered Banijay Group as the lead contender in the race to purchase the company behind Big Brother and Black Mirror.
When UK-headquartered ITV announced it was ruling out a bid for Endemol Shine, following reports to the contrary, the Financial Times reported that Banijay was in “pole position” to acquire the company, with Hollywood entertainment powerhouse Endeavor also said to still be interested. But the price tag for the Amsterdam-headquartered ESG — in the neighborhood of over $3 billion, according to some analysts — could be too steep for some suitors.
Among the factors placing Banijay as a potential front-runner in the bid process: Banijay Group CEO Marco Bassetti (pictured) has deep ties with Endemol, having served as COO, group president, and interim CEO, as well as founding executive of Endemol Italy prior to coming to Banijay in 2013. His brother, Paolo Bassetti, was recently appointed to the CEO position for Banijay’s Italian division, following his run as Endemol Shine Italy’s CEO and chairman, and as a member of ESG’s international board. And importantly, Banijay Group founder and chairman Stéphane Courbit also served as president of Endemol France, following Endemol’s acquisition of his Arthur Stéphane Productions in the late 1990s.
Perhaps more of an indicator, however, is the number of major, expensive acquisitions over the course of Banijay’s 10-year history. Owned by Courbit’s LOV and De Agostini Group’s DeA Communications and with Vivendi having a minority stake, Banijay’s acquisition strategy first targeted French prodcos, and then moved into other European territories such as Spain and Germany.
But in 2016 the company struck its biggest deal up to that point — the merger with another global production/distribution giant, Zodiak Media — which transformed the newly-formed Banijay Group into one of the world’ s largest independent content producers and distributors. The company then went on to expand its American footprint with acquisitions of Stephen David Entertainment and Keeping Up with the Kardashians prodco Bunim/Murray Productions.
Last year, Banijay Group dug deep into its pockets once more for the acquisition of Castaway Television Productions, creator of global format phenomenon Survivor. The deal, which required Banijay Group to raise $416 million in capital funding that would also be used to refinance the existing debt from the Zodiak merger, placed Survivor in the Banijay Rights catalog, and the acquisition of Endemol Shine Group would land Big Brother —produced in 64 territories and seen in over 120 countries, but recently dropped by Channel 5 in the UK — in the Banijay portfolio, which would make it home to two of the world’s most iconic formats.
Other strong formats in ESG’s roster include MasterChef, Fear Factor and newer titles such as All Together Now and Hunted. Strong scripted performers include Netflix’s Black Mirror and Peaky Blinders, airing on BBC2 and available in the U.S. via Netflix.
There are other names, such as All3Media and Lionsgate, still being floated in the speculation regarding an acquisition of ESG, and the process, according to remarks made by ESG chief creative officer Peter Salmon during an appearance at the RTL conference in September, is approaching the finish line. But with the companies in the rumor mill maintaining radio silence on any prospective or current bids — both Banijay and Endemol Shine declined comment regarding the recent stories — the question of “deal or no deal,” to cite another ESG format, remains unanswered, and the pieces in the puzzle will doubtlessly shift further in the meantime.