EXCLUSIVE: It’s been kept completely secret — until now. But I’ve learned that savvy media investor and entertainment programmer Allen Shapiro is the wizard behind the curtain of this One Equity Partners deal-in-the-making to purchase CKX. Sources tell me that the many weeks of day and night meetings to hammer out a deal have reached a crucial stage. But Shapiro’s name hasn’t yet been linked, and neither The New York Times nor Wall Street Journal even mentioned him in recent stories about the advanced deal talks. My info is that he’s been involved for a long time. Of course, the last time Shapiro partnered with One Equity Partners, the global private equity investment arm of JPMorgan Chase, it was for their purchase of 49% of Lionsgate’s TV Guide Channel and TVGuide.com.
The secrecy surrounding Shapiro’s involvement in CKX may have to do with that TV Guide deal. He was initially buying TV Guide until Lionsgate swooped in at the last minute. Ultimately, Shapiro got a sizeable chunk of it almost a year ago. “But the fact is it’s in no one’s interest not to keep this new transaction secret,” a source tells me.
As to why Shapiro is interested in CKX, my sources say it’s primarily because of the company’s high-profile American Idol and Elvis Presley and most of Muhammad Ali assets. Despite some beliefs that American Idol may suffer after judge Simon Cowell exits, and especially when his hit UK show X Factor starts competing in the U.S. market, I hear that Shapiro is convinced that Idol will continue strong through at least the 5 years left on its U.S. contract. “His opinion is that Idol is here to stay. It has 20 million viewers. Even its viewership goes down to 10 million viewers, it’s still a huge hit,” an insider tells me. Plus, Shapiro is becoming a heavy in the U.S. television syndication market through his recent TV Guide Channel deals for Ugly Betty, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Weeds. Surely, American Idol will find its way there was well. (My information is that TV Guide Channel’s 51% owner Lionsgate is not involved at all in the Shapiro-One Equity partners-CKX planned deal.)
Shapiro is always on the prowl for well-known brands that are poorly managed, and then getting in and out of deals once he’s taken the undervalued assets and made them worth more. For instance, he facilitated the leveraged buyout of dick clark productions (dcp) and became CEO in 2004 before selling it in 2007. While at dcp, Shapiro served as Executive Producer of So You Think You Can Dance, The Golden Globes, American Music Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards, and New Years Rockin’ Eve. As president of Mosaic Media Group, he expanded Mosaic from an entertainment service business into an asset management company by investing in and controlling strategic media assets. He arranged Mosaic’s acquisition of Hamstein Music (ZZ Top) and the Daksel & Seldak (Aerosmith) catalog to form Mosaic Music Publishing which he then sold in 2005. Prior to joining Mosaic, Shapiro served as President / CEO of The IndieProd Company, where he arranged the sale of the Company to Carolco Pictures.
As for the deal for CKX, it’s already been reported recently that CKX chairman/CEO Robert F.X. Sillerman values the company at $558M, or roughly $6 a share. The share price climbed sharply after the WSJ broke the news of the negtoations with One Equity partners back in March. But that’s way down from 2007’s valuation of $1.3B.