Al Gore buyout draws political capital

A ‘nonpolitical’ cable network buyout led by former US vice president and US presidential candidate Al Gore has drawn the support of two politically connected private equity groups – The Yucaipa Cos and Blum Capital Partners.

A group of investors led by former US presidential candidate Al Gore today announced the acquisition of a cable news network from Vivendi Universal.

 

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but news reports have placed its value at $70 million (€58 million).

 

The new company, to be called INdTV, will provide an ‘independent’ 24-hour global news service, according to a press release. Programming will be aimed at young people between the ages of 18 and 34.

 

In interviews, Gore has stated that the network will not present a ‘liberal’ viewpoint or attempt to counter more conservative news networks like Fox News.

 

To this assertion, INdTV will no doubt have its skeptics, considering its private equity backers are connected to Bill Clinton and Democratic California Senator Diane Feinstein.

 

Los Angeles buyout firm The Yucaipa Group is a reported backer of the new company. Yucaipa is run by prominent Democratic Party supporter, grocery store billionaire Ron Burkle. Former US president Clinton is an advisor to the firm. Another reported private equity backer of the deal is San Franciso private equity firm Blum Capital Partners, whose founder, Richard Blum, is married to Senator Feinstein.

 

Other investors include Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and Bob Pittman, former co-chief operating officer of Time Warner.

 

At Vivendi, INdTV was called Newsworld International and based in Canada. The service currently has 17 million subscribers.

 

Gore spent seven years as a journalist before entering public service. Joining him in the management of the new company will be Joel Hyatt, a legal-services entrepreneur and friend of Gore's.

 

Gore has been active in the private equity space of late. He is a ‘senior advisor’ to venture-backed Google. In 2001, Los Angeles-based financial services firm Metropolitan West Financial announced that Gore had joined on as an advisor to its private equity strategy. Metropolitan West is now a division of Wachovia, and the firm’s Website makes no mention of Gore or a private equity programme.