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Gores Group making play for 'American Idol' parent CKX

April 1, 2011 |  2:37 pm

CKX Inc., the parent of "American Idol" producer 19 Entertainment, may be back on the block.

The Gores Group, which is billionaire Alec Gores' company, made an offer to buy CKX, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed.

The terms have not been disclosed, and although CKX received the offer over a week ago, it has yet to disclose it in a Securities & Exchange filing. Neither CKX Chief Executive Michael Ferrel nor a spokesman for the company returned calls seeking comment. A spokesman for Gores declined comment.

Last year when suitors were circling the company, the offers ranged between $550 million and $600 million.

However, although there were three separate groups kicking the tires of CKX, including "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller and CKK founder Robert FX Sillerman, no agreements could be reached. The third bidder was One Equity Partners, a private-equity arm of JP Morgan Chase that had aligned itself with Hollywood veteran deal-maker Allen Shapiro, who is president of Mosaic Media Group.

Frustrated by the slow pace and tone of the talks, CKX ended them in October 2010, saying it "did not receive any proposals that it felt were in the best interests of shareholders."

A wild card for Gores is Sillerman, who holds a chunk of CKX stock and could get in the way of any deal.

There had been concern that the exit of Simon Cowell from Fox's "American Idol" would hurt the show and also CKX. However, with new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez on board, the music talent show has performed surprisingly well. Its numbers are down from the glory days, but it is doing much better than most industry observers expected.

In addition to "American Idol," CKX produces Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" and owns a management business, a majority stake in Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion and an 80% interest in licensing rights to the name and image of Muhammad Ali.

Gores has been aggressively looking to acquire entertainment assets for some time. Last year, he teamed up with his brother Tom, who has his own equity firm, Platinum Equity, to make a run at Miramax.

News of Gores' bid was first reported by Bloomberg.

-- Joe Flint