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'Pop Idol' creator Simon Fuller sells 19 Entertainment for over $210 million


By Wade Paulsen, 03/18/2005 

Today, Sports Entertainment Enterprises, Inc., doing business as CKX, Inc., announced that it had purchased control of SImon Fuller's 19 Entertainment Ltd., the U.K.-based company that, among other things, owns the trademark and co-production rights for the worldwide Pop Idol series, including American Idol and Canadian Idol.

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Total consideration for the purchase was set at US $124.4 million plus 1,870,558 shares of CKX common stock to be paid at closing, along with an additional $36.9 million in cash or stock to be paid following delivery of audited financial results for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2005. At the end of the trading day, shares of CKX, which began trading on the Nasdaq market (symbol: CKXE) in February of this year, were priced at $26.73/share (a jump of about $10/share from their $16.91 finish on March 17 ... and the stock's all-time high), placing the total value of the package slightly over $210 million (at today's stock price).

As part of the deal, Simon Fuller will enter into a long-term development agreement with CKX. Said Fuller, ""This is a hugely exciting new partnership for myself and 19 Entertainment. CKX will provide 19 with a powerful platform for global growth and allow us to fully take advantage of all the amazing opportunities that lie ahead."

19 Entertainment takes its name from the first #1 hit performed by an artist managed by Fuller, Paul Hardcatle's "19" in 1985. In addition to the Pop Idol franchise, 19 Entertainment is a partner in a global joint venture with soccer star David Beckham and his wife Victoria Adams Beckham, the former "Posh Spice" in the Fuller-managed Spice Girls. 19 also manages recording artists ranging from the various Idol contestants to Annie Lennox.

However, recent controversy has erupted about the standard American Idol contract, which binds all winners and selected other finalists for recording, management and marketing. In May 2004, Idol 2 runner-up Clay Aiken, the biggest U.S. star produced by Idol so far, extricated himself from the management and marketing portions of the contract. Since January 2005, rumors have swirling that Idol 1 winner Kelly Clarkson is about to follow suit. And, just last week, Idol 4 finalist Mario Vazquez quit the show for undisclosed reason, which now appear to be his unwillingness to sign that same contract.

As a result, 19 may be seeing one source of revenue -- the high commissions charged to successful Idol contestants -- dry up in the near future. However, American Idol continues to dominate U.S. ratings, as it heads for its second-straight #1 finish in both total viewers and Adults 18-49, so the loss of revenue at the back end may be offset by higher front-end earnings.

This purchase of 19 Entertainment follows CKX's recent acquisition of a controlling interest in Elvis Presley Enterprises from his daughter Lisa Marie Presley. EPE owns and/or controls (1) the commercial utilization of the name, image and likeness of Elvis Presley, (2) the operation of the Graceland museum and related attractions, and (3) the revenue derived from Elvis Presley's television specials, films and some of his music. Lisa Marie, however, retains ownership of Graceland and certain of her father's personal effects.

Controlling interest in CKE is held by Robert F.X. Sillerman, who stated, "Simon Fuller and his associates at 19 Entertainment have a long history of developing and building some of the most impactful branded entertainment properties in the world. We are thrilled to have them as partners of CKX. As we grow our business, the content that 19 owns, controls, is developing, or develops in the future will become important elements in our effort to refocus the relationship between the creators of content and the distributors of that content."

The "refocusing" between CKX and 19 seems likely to produce an "Elvis Week" on American Idol 4. Stay tuned....


(Photo credit Fox)


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