2ND UPDATE: A key insider at Endemol explains to me, “I think there were issues in the way he ran the company and the decsions he made, and he lost the support of many of the employees. Like when you have a coach of a soccer team the players don’t buy into the way he’s managing the team.” Not only unpopular, Ynon Kreiz exits as Endemol is facing a 900 million euro write-off of loans to the Dutch-based company which produces Big Brother among many other unscripted shows around the world. Endemol also said this month it’s exploring options to restructure its debt as widening losses will cause it to breach covenants on 2.8 billion euros of loans, including 325 million euros of mezzanine debt used to fund its 2007 buyout. Reports are circulating of buyout interest from ITV, Time Warner, and News Corp. “Clearly there are debt issues and we’re going through a financial restructuring. There also was unhappiness with a huge payout to Kreiz, which didn’t sit well,” the key insider tells me. “But from a standpoint of creativity and new shows and long-running franchises and diversification of the company, we’re on solid ground.”
The announcement of a shakeup at the top was made today by Endemol’s shareholder board (different from the usual board of directors) and first published by the Financial Times. The mogul’s exit follows a three-year period of massive dealmaking and restructuring by Kreiz, who has been chairman/CEO of the Dutch-based global leader in entertainment programming and the world’s largest independent television and digital production company since June 1, 2008. Kreiz follows out the door the Endemol chief commercial officer Tom Toumazis, who exited a few weeks ago. (“Believe me, I didn’t send him a fruit basket either,” an insider snarks.) But lest anyone doubt it, Endemol is still alive and well as the unscripted giant produces content and partners with more than 400 broadcasters and cross-media platforms worldwide as part of a global network of more than 80 companies in 26 countries employing about 6,500 people.
Endemol since May 2007 has been owned by a consortium including Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset, and company co-founder John de Mol’s Cyrte Investments in a $4 billion deal that bought the company from Spanish telco Telefonica. (Telefonica paid $7.6 billion for Endemol in 2000.) Immediately recruited to run Endemol was the Israeli-born Kreiz, who worked as an investor in the media industry — between 2005-2007, he was a general partner at Balderton Capital (formerly Benchmark Capital Europe), a leading venture capital firm. But he is best known as Haim Saban’s protoge and pal. Between 1997-2002, Kreiz served as chairman/CEO of Fox Kids Europe N.V., which he co-founded with Saban in October 1996. Under Kreiz’s management, Fox Kids became one of the fastest-growing pay-TV channels in Europe and the Middle East.
As one of the largest independent distributors of formats and finished programming in the world, Endemol has a library of over 2,000 formats and more than 22,000 hours of content across genres including entertainment, reality TV, game shows, animation, comedy, drama, docu-dramas, features and feature films. Endemol’s credits include international blockbusters such as Big Brother, Deal or No Deal, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, 1 vs. 100, Star Academy and Wipeout. Its growing drama portfolio includes worldwide hits such as Home and Away, Rush, McLeod’s Daughters, Wire in the Blood, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Robin Hood and Nini. Endemol is also behind a wide range of multimedia sports content including football, cricket, rugby and motor racing.