Bloomberg News

‘Power Rangers’ Billionaire Saban Looking for Asian Investments

February 03, 2012

Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Saban Capital Group, U.S. billionaire Haim Saban’s private-equity firm, opened its first Asian office in Hong Kong and plans to invest “a significant” amount of capital in the region, said the company’s president.

“We have a big appetite for Asia,” Adam Chesnoff, who is also chief operating officer of Saban Capital, said in a phone interview from Hong Kong, declining to give details on the investment amount. “We’re very bullish on the prospects of the Asian landscape in terms of growth, innovation.”

Led by China, the East Asia and Pacific region is set to expand 7.8 percent this year, compared with a global average of 2.5 percent, the World Bank said in January. Los Angeles-based Saban Capital, which started investing in Asia in 2010 the money of the billionaire behind the Power Rangers television series, plans to put more funds into fast-growing companies in the media and communications industries, Chesnoff said. The fund has no other investors.

“Asia is home to some of the world’s most innovative and creative entrepreneurs in media and communications,” billionaire Saban, 67, chairman and chief executive officer of the firm, said in a statement for the new office. “We are excited about expanding our investment franchise into Asia.”

Sumeet Jaisinghani, who joined Saban Capital in 2008 and has been involved in the firm’s investments in Asia, will oversee the team in Hong Kong after moving from Los Angeles. The firm plans to open more offices in the region, Chesnoff said.

Saban Capital invested in PT Media Nusantara Citra, a unit of Indonesia’s largest media company, Hong Kong’s Celestial Tiger Entertainment, and Taomee Holdings Ltd., the Shanghai- based operator of an entertainment website for children.

‘Continue That Momentum’

“We’re seeing pretty attractive double-digit returns in the investments that we have made so far,” Chesnoff said. “Our hope is to continue that momentum with the investments that we’re going to make going forward.”

Saban Capital plans to take minority stakes in companies in Asia, focusing on equity investments, unlike in the U.S. where it would typically seek control of firms and use leverage, Chesnoff said.

“Many private-equity firms look to control and to dictate the strategy of the company; Asia is very different,” he said. “Adapting yourself and operating in a certain way that’s friendly to entrepreneurs and companies in Asia, is very important.”

Saban Capital has either invested or arranged to invest about $6 billion of equity in different transactions in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East over the past decade, said Chesnoff, who is based in Los Angeles. It has teamed up with eight private-equity firms, including TPG Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners LP, in various transactions in previous years, he said.

The firm can “move very quickly” in its investments because it manages only the billionaire’s money, Chesnoff said.

“Certainly our entire investment team’s goal is to increase Haim’s net worth as much as possible within the next few years,” Chesnoff said, declining to provide details of the billionaire’s wealth. “During 2012 and 2013, we’ll see quite a bit of activity and transactions that we can consummate.”

Saban made his first fortune developing and producing the Power Rangers children’s television series about a group of teenagers who battles the evil Rita Repulsa.

--Editors: Linus Chua, Andreea Papuc

To contact the reporter on this story: Netty Ismail in Singapore nismail3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Matthew G. Miller at mmiller144@bloomberg.net


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