KKR expands independent audio-visual content platform; Universum Film to join alongside Tele München Gruppe
- KKR adds another industry-leading business to the platform
- Universum Film is a leader in the film distribution sector and #1 in the German-speaking independent home entertainment market1
- Media sector expert Dr. Markus Frerker to become COO of the platform
Munich, 25 February 2019 – KKR, a leading global investment firm, today announced the full acquisition of Universum Film (“Universum”) from Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland. Universum becomes the second company within the new independent audio-visual content platform in Germany. The platform was created by KKR through its recent acquisition of Tele München Gruppe (“TMG”), the largest independent media company in Germany which combines all parts of the value chain for audio-visual content across platforms.
Universum was founded 40 years ago by Bertelsmann as a home entertainment sales company. In 2002 it began cinema distribution, through which successful films such as "Earth", "The Hateful 8", "Valerian", "The Little Ghost", "Red Bracelets" and "Vice" are distributed. At the same time, Universum positioned itself as a leading provider of children's and anime content. Universum started with digital products as one of the first distributors in the market. Based on the company´s strong market position, it also offers physical and digital distribution services to third parties. The company has also been distributing audio content since 2015 and has operated two SVOD channels since 2017. Today, Universum owns the rights to approximately 3,700 titles.
KKR to further expand audio-visual content platform
“I am proud that we have come one step closer to realizing our vision of creating something truly new and unique in the German entertainment industry. Universum ideally complements our platform, delivering tailor-made content to viewers through cinemas and homes. The extensive experience as well as marketing and sales expertise of Universum’s employees will help drive the future success of the platform. With Universum and TMG, the platform is already one of the best in the industry in many areas. We want to build on these strengths and drive its growth further,” said Philipp Freise, Member and Head of the European Technology, Media and Telecommunications Industry team at KKR.
Fred Kogel, CEO of the platform, said: “We love cinema! That’s why I’m very much looking forward to Bernhard zu Castell and his team joining the family. From the beginning, we wanted to integrate Universum, due to its expertise in home entertainment and its pioneering role in the digital transformation of this business. My gratitude goes to the RTL Group, especially to Bernd Reichart and Jörg Graf, for making this possible.”
Bernhard zu Castell, CEO of Universum, added: "I would like to thank Mediengruppe RTL for an exciting and successful 15 years, and look forward to continuing our successful cooperation in the future. It's great to be part of such an ambitious team and to contribute our strengths to building Germany's largest independent content platform. This will allow us to fully exploit the potential of Universum and take advantage of the great opportunities that this platform will bring. We look forward to a successful cooperation with all parties involved."
Jörg Graf, CEO and COO Programme Affairs of Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland, added: “Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland and Universum Film have celebrated numerous successes together. I would like to expressly thank all employees of Universum Film under the management of Bernhard zu Castell. Universum Film's continued economic success is based on the acquisition and distribution of film rights and their successful digital transformation, with a focus on transaction-based business.”
Bringing together a best-in-class team
As part of the expansion of the platform, Fred Kogel is strengthening his management team: "I am very pleased that Dr. Markus Frerker will be joining the platform's management team as COO. I've known Markus a long time. He is a proven expert in the media industry,” said Fred Kogel. Markus Frerker is former Chief Officer Group Content at ProSiebenSat.1 where he was responsible, amongst other things, for the content sourcing of the entire group. Prior to that, he led the German media and TV practice of McKinsey.
Bernhard zu Castell will continue to lead Universum as CEO. He began his professional career at the KirchGruppe. After working in the media sector and industrial companies, he moved to RTL's corporate development department in 2004. In July 2006 he took over the commercial management of Universum. He has been CEO of the company since 2010.
The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. It is expected to close in April 2019. KKR is making its investment from its European Fund IV. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.
Further information on the audio-visual content platform can be found in the press release (link) of 21 February 2019.
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Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland
Konstantin von Stechow
Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland
Phone: +49 221 45 67 42 39
KKR is a leading global investment firm that manages multiple alternative asset classes, including private equity, energy, infrastructure, real estate and credit, with strategic partners that manage hedge funds. KKR aims to generate attractive investment returns for its fund investors by following a patient and disciplined investment approach, employing world-class people, and driving growth and value creation with KKR portfolio companies. KKR invests its own capital alongside the capital it manages for fund investors and provides financing solutions and investment opportunities through its capital markets business. References to KKR's investments may include the activities of its sponsored funds. For additional information about KKR & Co. Inc. (NYSE: KKR), please visit KKR's website at www.kkr.com and on Twitter @KKR_Co.
About Universum Film
Universum is a Munich-based company that acquires and co-produces feature film and series rights in all genres on the national and international markets and exploits them in cinemas and home entertainment. Universum is the leading independent video provider in the German-speaking region and also operates the exploitation of DVD/Blu-ray and digital licenses as an aggregator for numerous external partners. Universum is also active in audio content and has two SVOD channels.