Buyout firms 3i and Providence Equity Partners, in conjunction with UK businessman David Elstein, have sold television company Sparrowhawk Media to General Electric-owned NBC Universal.
Terms were undisclosed, but a source close to the company put the sale price at £175 million ($352 million, €258 million).
Sparrowhawk provides pay-television and has an extensive library, with activities in Asia, eastern Europe, the UK and elsewhere.
The source said: “The buyout firms doubled their money. The business was originally loss-making but they left it in profit.” Sparrowhawk set up distribution agreements with cable companies Sky and Virgin Media, increasing revenues, she said.
In a statement, NBC said it was interested in the company’s exposure to eastern Europe and Asia.
The company’s main asset is pay-TV channel Hallmark, which shows the popular programmes Law & Order, House and Monk. The channel has an audience of 60 million people internationally. It also recently launched Movies 24 in the UK.
The buyout consortium paid $242 million two years ago to buy a portfolio of Hallmark-branded channels from Crown Media. The two firms chose not to buy the rights to the US channel but instead acquired all the company’s international channels, re-branding them as Sparrowhawk.
Other buyout firms have also made significant forays into the television business. In April, Goldman Sachs Capital Partners and ex-Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi bought Big Brother producer Endemol for €2.6 billion ($3.5 million), alongside its founder John De Mol. Last year Bridgepoint sold All3Media to Permira, generating a 5.5 times multiple on its original 2003 investment.