Zodiak Media and Banijay International are in advanced discussions over a possible merger. Due diligence is currently underway. There had been speculation for some time as to the likelihood of a deal between the two companies. De Agostini, which controls Zodiak, is also one of Banijay Group’s shareholders.
“We regularly look at ways in which all of our affiliated companies might work together for the benefit of the Group,” Banijay chief exec Marco Bassetti told Deadline when first asked about the merger rumors earlier this month. Now a Banijay rep has confirmed to Deadline that talks are indeed moving forward between the two companies.
Banijay owns U.S.-based Bunim/Murray (Keeping Up With The Kardashians) and Stephen David Entertainment (The Men Who Built America) as well as companies in Germany (Brainpool), Australia (Screentime) and Scandinavia (Nordisk). Zodiak owns RDF Television, IWC and Bwark in the UK. The two companies have significant interests in France, with Banijay owning Air Productions and H20 Productions and Zodiak owning GTV, Adventure Line Productions, KM Productions and Mona Lisa.
It is believed that the deal would see Banijay emerge as the senior partner if and when the merger closes. Banijay is majority owned by controversial French businessman Stephane Courbit’s LOV Group. Courbit was formerly head of Endemol France. Banijay chief exec Marco Bassetti was formerly Endemol Group president. The deal would give Bassetti a return to the UK market. Courbit was found guilty by a French court of taking advantage of France’s second-richest woman, 92-year-old L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, when he had her invest over $100 million in his businesses, including Banijay without, allegedly, her full understanding of her investments. Courbit was fined $280,000 by a judge as a consequence.
There has generally been a mood of consolidation and acquisition in the indie TV sector with the likes of Endemol, Shine and Core Media Group merging and Discovery Communications and Liberty Global’s deal to buy All3Media leading to a spending spree. All3Media subsequently acquired Sam Mendes and Pippa Harris’ Neal Street Productions.
It is not yet clear if Bassetti or Zodiak chief exec Marc Antoine d’Halluin would lead the newly merged company.