UPDATE TUESDAY: While no side is discussing financials, I’ve learned more about the size of the deal, in which Legendary Entertainment acquired Asylum. I hear that Legendary ended up paying about eight times what Asylum is projected to make in terms of profits in 2014, which comes to a price tag just north of $100 million. Asylum is set to clear $12-$13 million next year, about three times what the company made in profits this year, as its balance sheet will be bolstered by the one-year output deal Asylum recently inked with ReelzChannel to deliver 50 hours of unscripted programming for the network in 2014, distributed over 10 series. While 8x multiple is within the range for a high-end deal, I hear Asylum’s decision to go with Legendary vs. the other suitors bidding for it came down to the plans Legendary had for the company’s future. In anticipation of the sale, Asylum has been aggressively staffing up in the last couple of months, hiring Stephanie Lydecker as SVP of Development to oversee unscripted development and Joan Harrison as SVP Scripted Programming & Development to oversee miniseries and limited series, as well as signing a pod deal with reality producer Sean Travis.
PREVIOUS MONDAY: In its first company acquisition on the TV side, in a competitive situation Legendary Entertainment has bought 100% of TV production company Asylum Entertainment, producer of The Kennedys miniseries. Asylum will be part of Legendary Television & Digital Media. While Legendary Television will remains focused on producing Legendary-branded scripted content, Asylum will serve as a production label for non-scripted, long-form, sports and other genres. Asylum will continue to operate as an independent company run by its founders, president and CEO Steve Michaels and president and chief creative officer Jonathan Koch, who will report to Bruce Rosenblum, President of Legendary Television and Digital Media. The acquisition jump starts unscripted and documentary production for Legendary and gives it a toehold in longform programming, an area Asylum plans to build with Legendary’s help. “Asylum’s terrific track record, relationships and current television content gives Legendary a base to expand and quickly diversify our television business,” said Rosenblum. Despite interest from various networks, Legendary’s TV operation will stay independent (the company is allied with Universal on the feature side), selling to all networks. Legendary TV, under development executive Peter Johnson, kicked off sales this development season, setting up several broadcast projects.
Founded in 2003 by Michaels and Koch, who got their start in sports documentaries, Asylum is known for producing such programs as three documentaries for ESPN’s critically lauded 30 For 30 series and the Beyond The Glory series for Fox Sports, Beverly Hills Pawn, miniseries The Kennedys and TV movie Ring Of Fire. The company recently landed a pilot order at Comedy Central for half-hour Crazy House. It is now in production on feature documentary Happy Valley, focusing on the sexual abuse scandal that recently rocked Penn State University and its football program. Next year, the company will release its first film, Small Time, written and directed by 24 co-creator Joel Surnow.