Simon Fuller has teamed up with former Barclay Capital banker Roger Jenkins to try and buy CKX, the entertainment group which owns the rights to the TV talent show. Jenkins and Fuller have amassed a $1 billion war chest to fund the CKX buyout. They are writing to the CKX board with their offer today. Fuller’s offer trumps a $550-560 million offer in March from One Equity Partners, the JP Morgan private equity arm. One Equity Partners had been working with former CKX chairman/CEO Bob Sillerman and media investor Allen Shapiro. (EXCLUSIVE: Allen Shapiro Behind Planned Deal To Buy ‘American Idol’ Parent CKX) This latest offer represents a substantial premium on CKX’s current share price, which values the company at $395 million. Clearly, Fuller believes there’s a lot of mileage left in Idol, despite the latest U.S. series ending with weak ratings and questions over its prospects.
Jenkins has close ties to investors in the Middle East, where he helped broker a £5.8 billion investment in Barclays through Qatar and Abu Dhabi, says the Financial Times. He has hosted charity events, rubbing shoulders with celebrities including Bono and George Clooney.
Fuller’s move pits him against former CEO Sillerman, who remains CKX’s largest shareholder with a 21% stake. Fuller wants to buy back 19, the company behind Idol, which he sold to CKX for $174 million. CKX also owns the rights to the names and likenesses of Elvis Presley and Muhammed Ali. The Idol creator resigned from CKX and 19 in January, setting up a new company XIX. He still consults on Idol for his old employer.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Sillerman has recently teamed up with private equity firm CVC Capital Partners to explore another bid. It will be fascinating to see which way the CKX board jumps. The views of other CKX shareholders, including the Elvis Presley family, will also be taken into account.