A sign of more big money being poured into the tech sector, by way of a new development for the Chernin Group, the digital media company founded by ex-News Corp. executive Peter Chernin: it has sold a “significant minority stake” to a group of investors led by Providence Equity Partners, reportedly for $200 million.
The Chernin Group, which has invested in a number of hot online properties including Tumblr and Flipboard, says that the deal gives it the financial muscle to go after “any deal of any size” anywhere in the world, according to a report in the FT. The deals will focus on digital media assets, and will span the range from incubator investments through to later-stage funding rounds. The first investments will be announced “within weeks.”
A $200 million investment from the Providence group would value the Chernin Group at around $400 million, a source told the newspaper.
The Chernin Group has used some of its funds to date to invest in U.S.-based properties like Tumblr, Flipboard and Pandora, and it has also produced films and TV shows with primary distribution in the U.S. market (eg Fox’s New Girl and the feature film Rise of the Planet of the Apes).
However, it looks like this new injection of cash will be used to help it also focus on investments in emerging markets like India, China and Indonesia. Asia is a region where the Chernin’s group has already been active, with a majority stake in CA Media, which Chernin had founded with another ex-News Corp. executive, Paul Aiello.
The deal also marks another step into VC activity for the Providence Group, which has made most of its investments on the side of private equity but is clearly interested in also making sure that it is riding the wave of “high-growth” tech investing as well — exemplified not just by Facebook’s purchase of Instagram for $1 billion, but the many other companies that are now being touted at similar valuations. Those are investments that the big media players are also missing out on, says Jonathan Nelson, chief executive of Providence. “It’s very hard for incumbents to pursue those opportunities [because] they are threatening to incumbents,” he told the FT. As part of the deal, Chernin will become an advisor to Providence, and Providence people will join the Chernin Group’s board.
And it’s as interesting to look at what the Chernin Group pursues as what it will not: apparently it had teamed up with Providence a year ago to look at buying Yahoo, but decided against it after it “didn’t feel like it made sense,” Chernin told the FT.
Providence Equity Partners is a leading private equity firm focused on media, entertainment, communications and information investments. The firm manages over $22 billion (Nov. 2008) in equity commitments and has invested in more than 100 companies globally since its inception in 1989.