Univision Sale Complete After FCC Grants Foreign Ownership Petition

Spanish-language media giant Univision has formally changed hands now that the FCC has granted the new owners’ petition regarding foreign ownership restrictions.

Wade Davis, former chief financial officer of Viacom, has taken the reins as CEO, as expected. Davis’ ForgeLight investment banner and Searchlight Capital Partners led the acquisition of a majority stake in Univision from a consortium of private equity investors led by Haim Saban’s Saban Capital.

Mexican media titan Televisa remains a minority shareholder in Univision. As part of the sale process, the deal was scrutinized by the FCC and Justice Department.

ForgeLight and Searchlight requested as part of that review that the new ownership team be allowed to exceed the FCC’s rule that foreign individuals or entities cannot own more than 25% interest in a company that owns TV stations. The FCC previously granted Univision some leeway on that rule given that Televisa’s stake already exceeds 25%. The decision announced on Dec. 23 gives the new Univision team the ability to go up to as much as 100% foreign ownership. That marks a sea change for FCC policy and an indication that regulators may be rethinking the foreign ownership ban.

“I am honored to be partnering with Searchlight and Televisa to begin this exciting new era for Univision,” said Davis. “Televisa’s strategic insight and global content leadership, coupled with Searchlight’s tremendous experience as a long-term media investor, will help us fully realize Univision’s potential as the leading Hispanic content company in the United States. Univision’s recognized and trusted brand, its consistent performance, and its leadership serving an important and growing consumer audience give us an unmatched opportunity to achieve even greater success.”

The FCC’s approval of the foreign ownership petition came in conjunction with Univision’s agreement to provide more data and security monitoring of its operations to the Justice Department.

As part of the sale review, the Justice Department set an agreement with Univision that calls for the company to appoint a security officer to monitor compliance with the agreement.

“Univision agrees to maintain its data and information security policies consistent
with industry standards to address physical and logical information security, remote access,
cybersecurity, third-party contractors (managed service providers), Outsourcing and Offshoring,
maintenance and retention of system access logs, personnel-screening, data disclosure or Access,
and data breach notifications regarding its collection and storage of Data on Identifiable U.S.
Customers,” according to the agreement finalized on Nov. 19.

With the transaction closed, Vincent Sadusky has exited as planned as CEO. Davis thanked the broadcast TV veteran for leading the company through a turbulent period after signing on as CEO in May 2018.

“This is a pivotal moment in Univision’s rich history, as the company plays an increasingly important role in educating audiences about key issues relevant to the Hispanic community and encouraging and elevating the dialogue on social justice and equality, while also continuing to provide entertainment when viewers need it most,” Davis said. “I couldn’t be more excited to get started. I would also like to thank Haim Saban and all the prior owners for their stewardship of this iconic business.”

(Pictured: Univision CEO Wade Davis)

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