True North has become the first of Channel 4’s Growth Fund investments to be sold, with Sky acquiring a majority stake in the indie.
The Leeds-headquartered business was one of the first four indies to secure investment from C4 in August 2014, along with Arrow Media, Popkorn and Lightbox. The broadcaster picked up a 21% of True North, which it increased to 23% in 2015.
As part of the agreement, Sky Vision, Sky’s distribution arm, will represent all of True North’s future programming and formats.
Co-creative directors and founders Jess Fowle and Andrew Sheldon, who launched the company in 2001, will continue to operate the indie from its Leeds and Manchester offices.
Sheldon said the deal was key to helping the indie achieve its “international ambitions”.
“We’re now well placed to deliver on a new set of ambitions in the global market, and we think Sky are the perfect partners to help achieve that.”
Fowle revealed the indie, which is responsible for C4’s Homes By the Sea and MTV’s Teen Mom UK, had received interest from several “potential investors” but opted to sell to the pay-TV giant after being impressed by Sky Vision managing director Jane Millichip.
“Jane and her team demonstrated that they understand and value not just our content, but our culture, and that proved irresistible,” Fowle said.
About Corporate Finance advised the True North management and C4 on the sale.
Last week, Broadcast reported a sale of one of C4’s early investments was imminent, following its move to acquire a stake in current affairs indie Firecrest Films.
Head of growth fund Laura Franses revealed she had spent around £15m of the £20m pot, which would be topped up with proceeds from the sale of any Growth Fund indie.
The deal marks the latest chapter in Sky’s acquisition strategy, under which it has invested in Love Productions and Blast! Films.
Sky Vision’s Millichip praised True North’s “fantastic reputation for creating and delivering high quality returnable series.”
C4 chief executive David Abraham added: “We set up the indie Growth Fund to help support creative UK companies get to the next level.”
“In this time, and with Channel 4’s support, Andrew and Jess have built one of the biggest factual indies in the country and established an important training ground for new and diverse creative talent in the north.
Separately Sky has also invested in Chrysalis Vision – the drama indie set up by Chris Wright CBE, Mick Pilsworth, Roger Parry CBE and entrepreneur Luke Johnson.
Sky Vision will become the indie’s commercial and distribution partner for its worldwide content.
Chrysalis Vision is described as currently having a “substantial, wide ranging slate in development.”
Chairman Chris Wright said the indie would work with Sky “to develop, produce and distribute long-running prime-time television drama series.”
He added: “This new arrangement gives our team the resources and contacts to take the business forward.”
“It has been an incredible journey for Delbert and I to get to the stage where we can build out our adventure shows under our own Studio. We stand on the shoulders of many giants, the ACF team have been incredible guides through the process – at its heart this is about building the ultimate home of adventure programming worldwide.”
“During the six month process which involved multiple interested Trade and Private Equity companies in London and LA, Richard was on hand to offer excellent advice, provide imaginative solutions to all parties on sticking points and always able to apply his experience, intelligence and good humor in a way that kept the process moving forward. Thanks, in no small measure, to Richard and ACF, Plimsoll now has a great partner for their next stage of the company’s evolution.”
“ACF was a fantastic partner during this process. Deals of this nature tend to be complex and are an emotional rollercoaster. It was critical to count on Richard’s support and expertise along the way.”
“I think ACF was able to do something groundbreaking with the eOne acquisition of Blackfin. We are a young company with dynamic growth potential and studio infrastructure was critical for the company’s next phase of expansion especially in a rapidly changing content marketplace. When eOne offered the President of eOne US Non-scripted role, this was the ultimate package for me and I am honored to be a part of their family. The ACF team displays respect and thoughtfulness in their work, it was a pleasure to do business with them.”
“Electus has greatly benefited from the advice and experience of ACF. They have an excellent understanding of the deal process and a clear idea of what matters to Electus’ continued success. Their expertize has been invaluable to us and we would not hesitate to recommend them”
“Myself and everyone at Whizz Kid Entertainment are thrilled to be joining the Entertainment One family. Credit and big thanks really must go to the ACF team who worked tirelessly to drive the deal through to completion with never a shred of doubt that it would be “all ok on the night!” Thank you from myself, and all the Whizz Kids.”
“As a result of ACF’s involvement, we have secured a mutually attractive deal with Keshet International that represents a great opportunity for both businesses going forward. We have found a partner with the same values, aspirations, and determination to succeed in an increasingly dynamic and competitive market.”
“We’ve worked closely with ACF on this deal, their guidance and negotiating advice was invaluable. Stuart and I have developed Greenbird Media over the last five years and are very proud to have helped the production companies grow. ACF helped us reflect the extent of our collective worth and helped us navigate through the contract process.”
“It would be easy to assume that once the deal closes, ACF's work is done, but depending on the structure there could be any number of payment milestones, calculations and potential adjustments post deal. ACF has always been there, not only at these critical junctures but also if at any point we've ever wanted to check or understand something better. Their advice at these times has always been invaluable.”
“We could not have found a more perfect partner in this endeavor than ACF and Thomas Dey. We thank ACF for a tremendous job and look forward to continuing to thrive in collaboration with our new partners at Lionsgate.”
“Since bringing ACF into the fold three years ago, the partnership has been a game changer and a success story that I'm very proud to have shared with Thomas Dey and the rest of the ACF team. Their expertise in the non scripted business is industry leading.”
“ACF have provided an invaluable role in understanding the opportunity to grow Paddington in all his forms and in quantifying the future value that will be available to a buyer – they very much understand intellectual property businesses.”
“There's a tee shirt I once read that said, "If I had Richard Gray's accent, I'd never stop talking." And through the rigors of selling your company, the sound of his kind voice gets you through. But beyond Richard's melodious Scottish accent, it's his intelligence, fueled by instinct and ACF's experience that I found vital to our successful outcome. Available at all hours.”
“The whole team at ACF have been incredible throughout the process of the sale. No one should underestimate the sheer amount of knowledge and expertise required to undertake a sale and Thomas Dey walked us through with patience and understanding as well as a great sense of humour!”
“All of us at Neal Street are thrilled to be joining forces with All3Media, a company whose philosophy and style feels totally in tune with our own. The team at ACF have guided and supported us through the process of finding the right partner with incredible dedication and attention to detail.”
“Working with ACF I have always found their sound advice and guidance invaluable. They have worked tirelessly to make the sale process smooth, transparent and professional.”
“A wedding day, the birth of a baby and the sale of one's company are often equal parts electricity, anticipation and terror. I only wish ACF could have been there to guide me through the first two.”
“ACF managed the whole process from start to finish and had their fingers on the pulse every step of the way. ACF are the best in the business. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
“ACF is unequivocally the gold standard for strategic investments within the entertainment industry. ACF’s deep relationships, proven strategic systems, and experienced team, was invaluable in helping us navigate the complex process while safeguarding our interest, which ultimately resulted in us finding the perfect strategic partner – this is just the beginning of our relationship with ACF.”
“We found a perfect partner in ACF. We have never felt better about the future growth of Renegade and we are forever grateful to the entire ACF team for their full commitment and tireless work ethic in setting up Renegade for the next exciting chapter in the success of our business.”
“ACF have represented Mammoth from the beginning and have always understood the priorities of the shareholders. Their experience of the complexities of structuring and negotiating these types of deals allowed them to fully safeguard the objectives of all shareholders throughout the process. ACF's knowledge of the scripted business is unparalleled and has made the process enjoyable and easy.”
“Thanks to ACF for their unique insight. Without their tremendous help, we wouldn't have been able to orchestrate this wonderful marriage between these two companies, because of their brilliant efforts, we look forward to a lifelong adventure and successful ride with ITV.”
“When it comes to winning investment, the team at ACF have a wealth of insight and experience. We had a number of interested parties and in a complex environment, ACF’s stewardship and counsel was most helpful. We are incredibly excited about our new partnership with Channel 4 and look forward to using this investment to boost our growth.”
“We chose ACF as our advisers, as they are specialists in the media and television market and they have done this sort of thing many, many times over. It was a great pleasure working with the team, we genuinely couldn’t have done it alone. In the BBC, we’ve found a partner who understands us, our culture and our business and we’re thrilled to have joined forces with such a like-minded organisation. I look forward to a bright and prosperous future together.”
“Thomas Dey handled one of the most important moments in my life with perfect intuition, a real understanding of my aspirations and fears, a wealth of experience and professionalism, constant care and attention to detail, utter professionalism and a smile and healthy attitude every time we met. He has also remained a good friend. I would wholeheartedly recommend him to anyone contemplating a sale of a creative business.”
“We are delighted with our new banking facilities. These have met all the objectives we aimed for at the outset of the process and will help support Tarsus in achieving our strategic goals. We look forward to working with our new bank group over the next few years.”