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Chernin hires group of MBAs to scout out acquisitions

February 23, 2010 |  4:30 pm

Peter Chernin is on the hunt.

Eight months after leaving the News Corp. executive suite, Chernin has been putting together an A-list team to help him run his new company -- Chernin Entertainment.  Last year he hired two former NBC Universal executives, Katherine Pope and Dylan Clark, to manage his TV production and movie units. They since have been busy preparing development slates.

Chernin In the last few weeks, Chernin has hired three business development executives, including former Goldman Sachs banker Jesse Jacobs, to scout out possible acquisitions. 

Chernin "is in the process of figuring out how best to take advantage of the many interesting opportunities that he is faced with," said one person close to him who did not want to be identified discussing his plans. "The people he has hired are very smart and well-equipped to help him do that."

Chernin already is working on a deal to buy a cable channel, according to one well-placed person, who would not disclose which channel was in the sights of the longtime Fox executive. 

But there are not a lot of cable channels on the block. There is the Gospel Music Channel, but that one doesn't exactly have Chernin written all over it.  What about Ovation TV, the independent channel dedicated to the arts, or the Tennis Channel? Both would be for sale at the right price, according to people in the know. News Corp. for months has been in discussions about a sale of Fuel channel to Viacom. But Chernin seems a little late to that party.

He could be interested in G-4, the Comcast-owned network, available in 66 million homes, geared toward geeks and video gamers -- basically men ages 34 and younger. But, according to sources, Comcast has zero interest in selling the channel -- even to Chernin, who served as an advisor to Comcast last year when the Philadelphia company was preparing its bid for NBC Universal. Comcast is betting it will be able to grow the channel after acquiring NBC Universal and its marketing firepower.

That leaves Fuse, the music network owned by MSG Media, a division of Madison Square Garden.  Fuse, which bills itself as the place "where music lives," is already available in 60 million homes -- about half the homes in the country with TVs.  And that's a respectable number for an ambitious mogul who is looking to build a company. Chernin could revamp the channel into a general-interest network.

Chernin has millions of dollars at the ready when he goes shopping.  He is planning to work with Providence Equity Partners or some other private equity firm to scoop up a valuable asset, according to these people. His plan is to put together a mini-media company complete with a film production studio and several cable networks.

If he is looking for a film library, some are on the block.  Disney is trying to unload Miramax, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is in need of a new owner. Chernin already has sniffed around MGM, according to one source, but he didn't immediately whip out a checkbook.

"Any time an interesting asset comes on the market, of course, if you are an entrepreneur like Peter, you are going to take a look," one person said. "But I don't know if he's targeting anything in particular right now."

Or maybe he's just not talking about it.

-- Meg James

Photo of Peter Chernin by Scott Eells; Bloomberg News


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