IMG, the big sports and talent agency which was in news recently about a trial-balloon-attempt to buy the company, is in advanced talks to buy reality TV titan Mark Burnett's production company. The talks were first reported by Nikki Finke, and the asking price may run into a few hundred millions. Burnett Prods. has produced hit shows such as "Survivor" and "Apprentice", and literally helped define the genre of reality TV. The company has also done some major online deals, none of which have been huge, but certainly among the first big online-TV joint efforts, including the AOL (NYSE: TWX) Gold Rush and MySpace deals.
Burnett has been shopping his company for months, and has been rumored to have talked with Endemol as well. The hefty pricetag, of as much as $400 million, is what's keeping a deal from happening. With IMG, it looks like half of the money may come in cash, and rest in earnout.
IMG is owned by Theodore Forstmann, owner of PE firm Forstmann Little & Co. that bought it in 2004. TVWeek: IMG has been raising its non-sports TV profile of late. Under IMG Global Media President Chris Albrecht, the company has set up high-profile projects including "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" (Showtime) and "Make Me a Supermodel" (Bravo) via holdings such as Tiger Aspect, Tigress and Darlow Smithson.
By Rafat Ali