Ben Silverman & Howard Owens’ Propagate Acquires Electus, Majority Stake In Artists First From IAC

UPDATED: Two and a half years after Ben Silverman left the company he had founded, the IAC-owned Electus, to join Howard T. Owens in A+E Networks-backed Propagate, the duo have acquired Electus and its majority stake in management/production company Artists First from Barry Diller’s IAC.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed though I hear it is worth under $50 million. I hear Diller recently put Electus-Artists First up for sale and other main buyers who bid for the assets included Entertainment One.

The acquisitions were financed through the investment secured earlier this year from The Raine Group to accelerate Propagate’s global growth through new ventures and targeted acquisitions. Original investor A+E Networks also owns a stake in Propagate.

Electus is the producer and distributor of series including “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” for NBC, “The Toy Box” for ABC, “Jane the Virgin” for The CW and extreme reality series “Darkness” for Discovery. The company also contains production companies Big Breakfast (“Adam Ruins Everything,” “Hot Date”) and Notional, producer of the popular “Chopped” cooking show franchise on Food Network. Global distribution division Electus International represents more than 4,000 hours of content sold to more than 220 countries around the world. Electus also produces and distributes original online content and creates marketing and media campaigns for leading brands and advertisers. The company was founded by Propagate Chairman and Co-CEO Silverman with the backing of IAC in 2009. He left Electus in 2016 to relaunch Propagate with Co-CEO Owens.

Artists First, led by Peter Principato and his management team, produces the ABC comedy “Black-ish” and Freeform spinoff “Grown-ish,” TBS’ “The Last O.G.” and ABC’s “The Gong Show.” Artists First’s client roster includes Will Arnett, Jordan Peele, Ed Helms, Tiffany Haddish, Awkwafina, F. Gary Gray, Jon M. Chu, Ike Barinholtz, Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Michael Showalter, Kate McKinnon, Judy Greer, Neil Marshall, Regina Hall and Kenya Barris. Founded in 2001, the company has offices in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.

“At Propagate, we are focused on building premium content with the best creative voices from around the world, and being able to support the growth of Electus and all of its partnerships is incredibly exciting to us,” said Propagate Co-CEOs Ben Silverman and Howard T. Owens, in a joint statement. “We have had the privilege of working closely with Peter Principato and his team of world-class executives and managers at Artists First and we are looking forward to deeper collaboration as we build an enterprise for the next phase of content creation and distribution. Barry Diller is an incredible entrepreneur who has consistently supported us throughout our careers.”

While still at Electus, Silverman had been looking to acquire a major management company for access to talent. An initial investment in Artists First (then Principato-Young) was made while he was still at the company.

“On behalf of the Artists First Partners, we are thrilled to team back up with Ben and join forces with Howard and the Propagate team,” said Artists First CEO Peter Principato. “Our management and production capabilities seamlessly integrate within the structure of Propagate, representing a fantastic opportunity for our company, our clients and the industry as a whole.”

The acquisition will reunite Silverman, Owens and Electus CEO Chris Grant who worked together at Silverman’s first company, Reveille. Grant subsequently joined Silverman at Electus.

“We are extremely excited to be reunited with Ben and to be part of what he and Howard are building at Propagate,” said Electus’ Grant and Drew Buckley.

Electus is the second Ben Silverman startup Diller had backed, following Reveille.

IAC Chairman and Senior Executive Barry Diller said, “It’s nice to see that Ben Silverman, who created Electus for IAC in 2009, has now purchased the company from us. We wish him the best for its future.”

Electus never meshed well with the rest of the IAC assets and its growth prospects were hindered by financial constrains. The one other IAC company Electus worked closely with, College Humor, appears to be staying behind.

Today’s announcement comes just weeks after Propagate announced it had entered into a development and producing partnership with Authentic Talent & Literary Management overseen by filmmaker and novelist Galt Niederhoffer (The Kids are Alright, Poison). As part of this transaction, Propagate will also acquire a minority interest in Authentic.

The deal was negotiated by Propagate’s recently appointed President Greg Lipstone along with Propagate’s Vice President of Finance and Corporate Development Kelly Fancher. The Raine Group was an advisor on the transaction. IAC was represented by Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks, P.C.

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