After a year of stem-to-stern reorganization under CEO Vince Sadusky
’s owners have hired Morgan Stanley and boutique firm LionTree to help them explore strategic options that could include a sale of the media mainstay.
Possible buyers or partners include private equity firms and established media companies looking to establish a presence in the sizable U.S. Hispanic
media market. In 2017, the company turned down an offer from cable and media potentate John Malone. That bid valued Univision at between $13.5 billion and $15 billion.
“After a successful year under the leadership of our new management team, including a complete refocus on our core Spanish-language media business, it is abundantly clear that Univision’s strategic value has never been greater,” the Univision board said in a statement. “The U.S. Hispanic audience represents one of the very few certain growth opportunities in today’s media marketplace, and Univision is ideally positioned.”
Sadusky described the company as “strategically, operationally and financially strong, having refocused on serving our core consumers, as well as our advertising and distribution partners.”
Since going private in 2006 in a $13.7 billion leveraged buyout, Univision has been controlled by billionaire Haim Saban
as well as private equity firms Madison Dearborn Partners and Providence Equity Partners. It is rare for private investors to retain stakes for as long a period as have the Univision stakeholders, so in that way the plan to explore other options is hardly a surprise.
A person familiar with the company’s outlook also said “the time felt right” to look at all strategic options, given recently consummated long-term distribution deals and a top-to-bottom restructuring that saw several top executives exit the company.
At the core of Univision’s portfolio is the most-watched U.S. Hispanic broadcast network, which has faced stiff competition from NBCUniversal’s Telemundo, especially among younger viewers. Randy Falco, the former NBC exec who steered Univision until being pushed out in the spring of 2018, pursued a novel but risk-laden strategy to get younger through the acquisition of digital brands like The Onion and Gizmodo Media Group, and English-language initiatives like cable network Fusion, which launched in 2013 as a joint venture with ABC. The company recently sold Gizmodo Media Group, parent of sites like Deadspin, to private equity firm Great Hill Partners.
Those efforts mostly failed to gain traction, and the company under Sadusky has pursued a “back-to-basics” approach, rededicating itself to core Hispanic audiences and embracing live sports, news and crowd-pleasing scripted programming. While Telemundo has scored outsized ratings from World Cup and Olympics broadcasts, Sadusky has said the high price tag is not warranted and that Univision is instead choosing to aggregate rights to a wide range of non-World Cup soccer and other sports in order to serve daily fan interest.
The Wall Street Journal had the first report of the hiring of bankers.