A complicated deal in the works for months between Disney (NYSE: DIS), Hearst and NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) is finally done: A&E Television Networks (AETN), which includes A&E and the History Channel, is acquiring Lifetime Entertainment. Financial terms were not disclosed, but Lifetime will operate as a subsidiary of A&E, with both companies retaining their separate branding. As paidContent first reported in June, the deal, designed to avoid tax implications, includes exit terms for NBCU; the GE unit can either elect to leave or be required to exit, giving Disney and Hearst 50-50 ownership. At the time, a source familiar with NBCU’s thinking said an exit was not being planned but other sources said it was part of the deal.
Currently, Hearst and Disney each hold 37.5 percent of AETN while NBCU has 25 percent, while Hearst and Disney each own 50 percent of Lifetime. In the new arrangement, NBCU would continue to be the minority member but its stake shrinks while Hearst and Disney grows because of Lifetime. (A source familiar with the situation tells me the new split is 42.5 percent each for Disney and Hearst and 15 percent for NBCU.) Another Disney-Hearst JV — the 80-20 split of ESPN — is not involved.
AETN President and CEO Abbe Raven will serve as head of the combined company once the deal closes, which is expected later this year. Lifetime Entertainment Services President and CEO Andrea Wong will continue to head Lifetime, reporting to Raven. Release.
Best twist in all this? The Weinstein Co.’s Project Runway ends up with NBCU again.