Reese Witherspoon to Sell Hello Sunshine to Wall Street-Backed Venture
Reese Witherspoon, the Oscar-winning actor who has become a force in Hollywood as a producer and entrepreneur, struck a deal on Monday to sell his entertainment studio, Hello Sunshine, to a newly formed company backed by investment firm Blackstone Group. .
Terms of the sale were not disclosed. Three people familiar with the deal, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the negotiations, said the deal valued Hello Sunshine at around $ 900 million.
Ms. Witherspoon started Hello Sunshine in 2016 with the idea of making films and shows that focus on women. The company has grown with two of its Emmy-winning series, “The Morning Show” for AppleTV + and “Big Little Lies” for HBO. With the nearly $ 1 billion deal, Ms Witherspoon goes beyond the roles that made her famous – in films like “Legally Blonde,” “Wild,” “Walk the Line” and “Election” – and in the ranks of the powerful of Hollywood.
Ms Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine Managing Director Sarah Harden will serve on the board of the Blackstone-backed company, which will be chaired by two former senior executives of the Walt Disney Company, Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs. Ms Witherspoon and Ms Harden will have stakes in the new company, which has no name yet, and will continue to run Hello Sunshine.
“I am deeply proud of the team that made this amazing time possible for us,” Ms. Witherspoon said in a statement, “and I am delighted to be working with Blackstone, Kevin and Tom to develop a next generation media company. They are committed to contributing to our mission of empowering women and the people who celebrate them. ”
Blackstone made an agreement to work with Mr Mayer and Mr Staggs in December, and they have been pursuing acquisitions since then. With Hello Sunshine as a cornerstone, Blackstone, Mr. Staggs, and Mr. Mayer plan to build an independent media company to tap into the voracious appetite for content when Netflix, Apple, Disney, and Amazon are willing to pay big bucks. money for the next streaming hit. Longer term, Blackstone sees it as a potential stand-alone public company or an acquisition target for an entertainment giant.
“There are a seemingly endless number of streaming services out there, all of them in need of content – and this megatrend that we think is old and really important,” said Joe Baratta, global head of private equity at Blackstone. “And so we looked for a few years, really, how to leverage that for our investors.”
Hello Sunshine is also home to Reese’s Book Club, which has over two million subscribers and a corresponding app. Ms Harden, the chief executive, said in an interview that books could be a big part of a transition to commerce.
“I think you’re going to see more of us coming into some kind of engagement, events, experiences, and commerce that target a consumer – and a lot centered around the books and reading lifestyle,” he said. Ms. Harden said.
For Mr. Mayer and Mr. Staggs, the Blackstone-backed media company, with Hello Sunshine at its center, means a return to entertainment.
Mr. Mayer, who helped design Disney’s purchases of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm during his more than 20 years with the company, has previously been considered a candidate to succeed Robert A. Iger as director. General of Disney. It was overtaken in 2020, when the company chose the head of its theme parks division, Bob Chapek. Mr. Mayer became CEO of TikTok, only to step down after three months.
Mr. Staggs, who spent more than 25 years at Disney, was another heir apparent to Mr. Iger. He left Disney in 2016, after a year as COO.
Edmond Lee contributed reports.
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