Haim Saban has grand brand plans
Saban, who made the bulk of his fortune in the kids television business and now is chairman and chief executive of Saban Capital Group, which counts the powerful Spanish-language broadcast network Univision among its holdings, is launching an investment arm and says he is committing $500 million in capital to acquire entertainment and consumer brands.
"As media and consumer options become increasingly fragmented and proliferated, our underlying thesis is that properties that resonate with consumers today will only become more meaningful over time," Saban said.
Saban has tapped Elie Dekel as president of Saban Brands. Dekel most recently was head of licensing and merchandising for 20th Century Fox, where he was involved in managing licensing for the Fox television hits "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" as well as movies "Avatar" and "Ice Age." Dekel has long ties to Saban, having worked with him at Saban Entertainment and later as president of Fox Family Worldwide.
Saban seems to be borrowing a page from the British company Iconix Brand Group, which has become a major player in that arena and now owns clothing lines including London Fog, Candie's and Joe Boxer and just struck a deal with the family of the late Charles Schulz to buy the Peanuts brand from E.W. Scripps Co. for $175 million.
"A combination of Iconix and Marvel," is how Adam Chesnoff, president and chief operating officer of Saban Capital, described the effort. Although he did not talk specifics, Chesnoff said the company had been kicking the tires of various brands for almost a year and expected to have some deals in the works shortly.
Neither Chesnoff nor Dekel ruled out looking at acquiring production companies that had brand potential, but the two stressed that, rather than acquire media properties to develop into brands, they were more likely to take the opposite approach and buy preexisting brands and figure out a strategy in terms of media and retail.
One area Saban Brands may want to become a player in is the food business. "Food has become a very hot category in media," Dekel said.
-- Joe Flint
Photos: At top, Elie Dekel. Bottom, Adam Chesnoff. Credit: Saban Capital Group