Reese Witherspoon’s media company, Hello Sunshine (Little Fires Everywhere), has been sold to a firm backed by private-equity giant Blackstone Group. Terms are not disclosed. According to the WSJ, which first reported the deal, it values the company at about $900 million.
The new media venture Blackstone is backing will be run by former Walt Disney Co. executives Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs, with Hello Sunshine as its first acquisition. Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine CEO Sarah Harden will join the board of the as-yet-unnamed company and will continue to operate Hello Sunshine.
According to the WSJ, Blackstone is spending more than $500 million in cash to purchase shares from existing Hello Sunshine investors, including AT&T and Emerson Collective. Witherspoon and some Hello Sunshine executives and investors will roll over the remaining equity into ownership stakes in the newly formed company.
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Witherspoon’s star power and her ability to turn books into successful TV series was a main draw for buyers, sources said. The five-year old company does not have a library; it is a producer on most of the Hello Sunshine series but only has some ownership in Little Fires Everywhere.
There is a pipeline of upcoming shows, and Hello Sunshine also operates the influential Reese’s Book Club, which helps establish titles that the company later adapts for the screen.
Hello Sunshine’s eye-popping $900 million sale price illustrates the arms race for content in the streaming age and the value of a star-driven venture, with Witherspoon also a force in the consumer product market with her clothing line. For comparison, Amazon is the process of acquiring MGM, a studio with a storied, century-long history and extensive library, for $8.45 billion.
The Hello Sunshine deal also will give other independent companies that have been shopping themselves, including LeBron James’ SpringHill, A24 and Imagine, a lift in their search for buyers.
Apple was reportedly among the companies that looked at Hello Sunshine, owned by Witherspoon with partners Seth Rodsky and former CAA agent Jim Toth, who is Witherspoon’s husband, when the company started exploring a sale earlier this summer.
Hello Sunshine is a female-led media business whose mission from the get-go has been to deliver original content focusing on the narratives and experiences of women. It has a handful of credits to date, including Apple’s The Morning Show, HBO’s Big Little Lies and Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere.
“I started this company to change the way all women are seen in media,” Witherspoon said. “Today, we’re taking a huge step forward by partnering with Blackstone, which will enable us to tell even more entertaining, impactful and illuminating stories about women’s lives globally.”
The new Blackstone-backed company is separate from a special-purpose acquisition company Staggs and Mayer recently established.
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