EXCLUSIVE: Chinese company Tencent — which entered into a deal with STX Entertainment about seven months ago — and Hong Kong telecom giant PCCW have just become equity investors in STX Entertainment in a play that is seen as lining up partners to grow the company into a major studio à la, Time-Warner. To that end, the company is expected to use the money to grow both its TV and international operations, its digital platforms and delve into other kinds of entertainment including virtual reality.
The investment, we understand, will not be used to finance films as STX already has two slate deals financed — one with Huayi Brothers and another that involved Tencent and a consortium of high net-worth Chinese investors that was done last year.
Current investors TPG Growth, Hony Capital, Gigi Pritzker, William Wrigley, Jr. and Michael Pucker (and family) have also put more money into STX and a new investment just came from East West Bank’s chairman and CEO Dominic Ng who is joining the board of directors at STX as is Janice Lee, Managing Director for PCCW.
“All of these investments, combined with an increase to our credit facility – led by J. P. Morgan and Bank of America – have provided us with access to almost $700 million in new capital,” said an email that the staff received (and Deadline obtained) about 10 minutes ago from STX co-founder, chairman and CEO Robert Simonds.
News of this comes after STX’s TV unit has already secured deals for 22 shows with multiple networks in the U.S. and Asia. STX will also become the first U.S.-based entertainment company involved in a broadcast television show airing in China.
In an email that the STX staff received, Simonds also wrote: “Our STX Motion Picture Group alone has always had access to over a billion dollars of capital a year to continue executing on our movies, which means we are projected to spend $7 billion over the next five years on films alone. The film group is unquestionably poised to grow and built to last for many years to come … as we continue to build out the company, the STX Motion Picture Group will be 20% of STX Entertainment’s businesses. New business lines will include the formal launch of STX Television, STX Digital, STX Music, and (the continued expansion of) STX International.”
Simonds added: “In anticipation of this significant expansion, we have been pursuing acquisitions of multiple, premium companies in spaces that include Virtual Reality, Short-Form Content creation, and the engineering of artist-driven Apps. And in a continuation of our track record of attracting and hiring the best and most successful minds in entertainment, we are currently in negotiations to bring in a number of high-powered executives to drive these groups.” The chairman/CEO noted that they will be announcing new hires in the weeks to come and are organizing a company retreat to go over all of this with the employees.
STX right now, which has set its sights from the get-go on becoming a major media company, just received a $1.4 billion valuation from the Chinese. STX was known for months to have been shopping for partners that could grow the company into the vision of a major U.S. media conglomerate.
Under terms of the deal, STX sold a small percentage of equity to Tencent, however, it does not change the company’s shareholder structure. TPG Growth is still the biggest shareholder in the company, followed by Simonds and then Honi Captial, in that order.
This agreement is for equity in STX Entertainment and where STX basically becomes PCCW’s and Tencent’s content partners. It is known that STX was in talks with other Chinese players in this space, including Alibaba and Baidu, Inc., but chose instead to align itself with Tencent and PCCW. Tencent is one of the largest Internet companies in the world with holdings also in media, entertainment, and mobile phones service. It is valued as a $200 billion company. PCCW is an information and communications company that has the largest pay-TV service in Hong Kong. STX will provide feature films to be pumped through their TV and digital channels and OTT services in Hong Kong, India and Southeast Asia.
“STX aims to be the one-stop shop’ for talent to have a frictionless creative experience across all platforms,” Simonds’ staff was told in the email. “The bigger a star, the more they realize that their brand equity is completely untapped. We are convinced that STX is the only company with the money and infrastructure to successfully execute on and leverage those artists across multiple platforms.”
The company has pics already under its belt that include The Gift, The Boy and current release Bad Moms which has collected $58.7M to date. On deck are a new movie with Sylvester Stallone and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. Setting a record for a Cannes deal this past May, STX landed The Irishman with hopes to reunite Scorsese with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel, as well as to team Al Pacino with Scorsese for the first time. That acquisition came after a heated bidding war. STX this week entered final talks to close a deal on the script for the action-pic Red Widow from screenwriter Matthew Altman. It also made a decision to exit as distributor and co-financier of Barbra Streisand’s Gypsy.
STX’s general counsel Noah Fogelson led the deal on behalf of the Company. Kirkland & Ellis LLP acted as legal advisor and The Raine Group LLC acted as financial advisor to STX.