Univision Sold: Searchlight Capital, ForgeLight Buy Majority Stake in Spanish-Language Network

Wade Davis is set to be CEO

Univision logo

Searchlight Capital Partners and ForgeLight have together acquired a 64% majority stake in Spanish-language broadcast network Univision. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The pair of investment companies acquired the stake from Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Saban Capital Group — a.k.a. the “Sponsor Group.”

Wade Davis, the founder of ForgeLight, is set to become Univision’s CEO. Davis was Viacom CFO before the MTV parent company re-merged with CBS in late 2019. Vince Sadusky, the current CEO of Univision, will exit the company after the transaction closes, an insider knowledgeable with the deal tell TheWrap. Sadusky is 53 years old, so it will not be a retirement.

Televisa will retain 36% ownership of Univision, the top-rated Spanish-language network.

The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approvals, is expected to close later in 2020.

To provide a broad understanding of the kind of money at stake here, Univision Communications went private in 2007 when Haim Saban bought the company for $13.7 billion. In 2016, Univision paid $135 million to purchase Gawker Media.

CEO Sadusky said: “We are a re-energized and refocused company, and today marks the start of an exciting new chapter with partners that recognize the excellent position Univision is in. I want to thank our talented employees for their hard work and dedication — I’m so proud of everything we have accomplished that has led us to this great outcome. Both Searchlight and Wade are wholly supportive of Univision’s core mission to entertain, inform and empower Hispanic America and fully embrace the commitment and special bond we have with our audience. Our talented operating team has transformed Univision to be strategically, operationally and financially stronger than it has been in years. We have made important moves–strengthened programming, secured many major distribution deals, closed our strongest Upfront in four years, divested non-core assets, and enhanced our news, sports, local and digital offerings. Our partnership with Televisa has never been stronger and continues to create an unstoppable, world-class content machine, as evidenced by Univision being one of only two broadcast groups to grow viewership this season. Our Latin Grammy Awards and Premio Lo Nuestro are the only major award shows on broadcast television delivering year-over-year audience growth, and just last week Premio Lo Nuestro beat every network in primetime.”

He continued: “We are also appreciative of the years of leadership and guidance from Chairman Haim Saban along with the other sponsors, including Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG and Thomas H. Lee Partners, which have been supportive stewards of our business and mission. I remain committed to leading the company and supporting a smooth and successful transition over the coming months to ensure Univision is best positioned for the future ahead.”

Davis, CEO and founder of ForgeLight, said: “First, I would like to thank the Sponsor Group for their work to bring Univision to where it is today and for choosing us to take the company forward. I am proud to partner with Searchlight and Televisa to lead Univision at such an exciting point in its history. Univision’s leadership and connection with one of the most important audiences in the U.S. today creates an amazing platform to drive innovation, build market-defining content and create an even deeper relationship with its audience. Vince and the entire Univision team have done an outstanding job of refocusing the company over the past 18 months, which has further enhanced the company’s position as a market leader in Spanish-language media and created this incredible opportunity going forward.”

Davis continued: “I am honored to be partnering with Televisa and Searchlight to help steward Univision into this next phase. Televisa has a shared history with Univision dating back many years and a deep strategic relationship today. The context, insight and strategic content that Televisa brings to Univision have been key to the company’s success. I have worked with Searchlight as a limited partner, board member and friend since the team founded the firm. They are among the smartest and most value additive investors in our industry and there is no one I would rather partner with in this transaction. This group of owners will be able to support the incredible team at Univision to deliver even more value to its advertisers, distributors and most importantly, its audience.”

Haim Saban, chairman of the board of Univision, said the following: “On behalf of the entire Sponsor Group, we are confident that we have found the right path forward with Searchlight and ForgeLight. Our goal in launching a comprehensive strategic review was to ensure that Univision was best positioned for future growth and success, and we believe this is the ideal outcome. Univision serves a critical purpose, and the value its programming brings to audiences, partners and communities is immeasurable. We are proud of all that Univision stands for and how much the company has accomplished over the years, and we look forward to seeing Univision continue to grow and evolve under Searchlight and Wade Davis’ leadership as it enters this exciting new chapter.”

Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, LionTree Advisors LLC and Moelis & Company LLC are financial advisors to Univision. Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, Covington & Burling LLP and Sidley Austin LLP are its legal counsel.

BofA Securities is serving as the financial advisor to Searchlight. Paul Weiss Rifkin Wharton & Garrison LLP is legal counsel.

Guggenheim Securities LLC is serving as financial advisor to ForgeLight. Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and Proskauer Rose LLP are acting as legal counsel.

Goldman Sachs & Co. is serving as financial advisor to Searchlight and ForgeLight as a group.

Allen & Company LLC is acting as the financial advisor to Televisa. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP are serving as its legal counsel.