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CKX, owner of 'American Idol,' in play

July 6, 2010 | 10:52 am

Forget about figuring out who will replace Simon Cowell on "American Idol." The real question is who will end up owning "American Idol."

CKX, the parent company of "American Idol" producer 19 Entertainment, is in play. The suitors are "Idol" creator, Simon Fuller, and Hollywood deal maker Allen Shapiro. Lingering in the background is Robert F.X. Sillerman, the founder and former chief executive of CKX who holds more than 20% of the company's stock and left the firm in May to contemplate making his own bid.

SHAPIRO Shapiro is teaming up with One Equity Partners, the private equity arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Fuller, former owner of 19 Entertainment, has joined hands with former Barclays Capital banker Roger Jenkins. People close to the parties said the Fuller group has offered $600 million, while the Shapiro team bid $550 million.

All the attention is barely causing a ripple on Wall Street. CKX's stock is actually down nearly 20% since word of offers for the company first surfaced in March, and it currently trades around $5 per share.

"Nobody has shown up with the dough yet to get the deal done," said Mark Argento with Craig-Hallum Capital Group, one of the few analysts to follow the stock.

One challenge for any potential owner is determining how much value there is to be milked out of "American Idol," which is still the No. 1 show on television, although its ratings may have peaked. 

Though the show is a cash cow for Fox, CKX and Fremantle, the other producer of "American Idol," the potential upside down the road may be limited because of the agreement Fox has for the hit program.

A story in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times details the chase for CKX as well as just how Fox pays for "American Idol" and why that may limit a big payday for the show's owners.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Allen Shapiro. Credit: Starla Fortunato.

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