Ukrainian-born billionaire industrialist Len Blavatnik has kicked the tires of many movie companies in recent years. His privately held U.S.-based Access Industries was the backer of Stewart Till’s 2009 purchase of Icon UK film and entertainment business from then owners Mel Gibson and Bruce Davey. You also may recall that “The Russian” (though his flack Mike Sitrick hates it when I refer to the Harvard-educated naturalized American citizen as such) was one of the bidders for MGM but only wanted to make a recapitalization/restructuring offer, meaning that it wasn’t an all-cash offer as requested by the investment bankers. Then again, Blavatnik loves a distressed property he can own or invest in at a bargain, which is how he amassed his global conglomerate of industrial, chemical, real estate, and media properties. He already was an investor in Warner Music Group and you can’t get more distressed than the recording industry these days. Now his Access will buy Warner Music for $8.25 a share in a transaction valued at $3.3 billion. The deal includes Warner’s entire recorded music and music publishing businesses. The purchase is expected to close in the third quarter.
Said to be worth in excess of $7 billion, Blavatnik managed to fly largely under the media radar until his involvement with Hollywood’s MGM and Icon UK. Founded by Blavatnik in 1986, Access Industries’ other media holdings include majority stakes in Perform Group (the online sports broadcaster), TopUpTV (a UK-based digital terrestrial TV service provider), and Amedia (an entertainment TV content developer and producer in Russia) together with minority stakes in RGE Group (an Israeli TV production company). At a company conference in 2005, he reportedly told senior execs: “Basically the idea is we buy low and sell high. We are here to make money.” Here’s the news release: (more…)