True North has become the first of Channel 4’s Growth Fund investments to be sold, with Sky acquiring a majority stake in the indie.
The Leeds-headquartered business was one of the first four indies to secure investment from C4 in August 2014, along with Arrow Media, Popkorn and Lightbox. The broadcaster picked up a 21% of True North, which it increased to 23% in 2015.
As part of the agreement, Sky Vision, Sky’s distribution arm, will represent all of True North’s future programming and formats.
Co-creative directors and founders Jess Fowle and Andrew Sheldon, who launched the company in 2001, will continue to operate the indie from its Leeds and Manchester offices.
Sheldon said the deal was key to helping the indie achieve its “international ambitions”.
“We’re now well placed to deliver on a new set of ambitions in the global market, and we think Sky are the perfect partners to help achieve that.”
Fowle revealed the indie, which is responsible for C4’s Homes By the Sea and MTV’s Teen Mom UK, had received interest from several “potential investors” but opted to sell to the pay-TV giant after being impressed by Sky Vision managing director Jane Millichip.
“Jane and her team demonstrated that they understand and value not just our content, but our culture, and that proved irresistible,” Fowle said.
About Corporate Finance advised the True North management and C4 on the sale.
Last week, Broadcast reported a sale of one of C4’s early investments was imminent, following its move to acquire a stake in current affairs indie Firecrest Films.
Head of growth fund Laura Franses revealed she had spent around £15m of the £20m pot, which would be topped up with proceeds from the sale of any Growth Fund indie.
The deal marks the latest chapter in Sky’s acquisition strategy, under which it has invested in Love Productions and Blast! Films.
Sky Vision’s Millichip praised True North’s “fantastic reputation for creating and delivering high quality returnable series.”
C4 chief executive David Abraham added: “We set up the indie Growth Fund to help support creative UK companies get to the next level.”
“In this time, and with Channel 4’s support, Andrew and Jess have built one of the biggest factual indies in the country and established an important training ground for new and diverse creative talent in the north.
Separately Sky has also invested in Chrysalis Vision – the drama indie set up by Chris Wright CBE, Mick Pilsworth, Roger Parry CBE and entrepreneur Luke Johnson.
Sky Vision will become the indie’s commercial and distribution partner for its worldwide content.
Chrysalis Vision is described as currently having a “substantial, wide ranging slate in development.”
Chairman Chris Wright said the indie would work with Sky “to develop, produce and distribute long-running prime-time television drama series.”
He added: “This new arrangement gives our team the resources and contacts to take the business forward.”
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“There's a tee shirt I once read that said, "If I had Richard Gray's accent, I'd never stop talking." And through the rigors of selling your company, the sound of his kind voice gets you through. But beyond Richard's melodious Scottish accent, it's his intelligence, fueled by instinct and ACF's experience that I found vital to our successful outcome. Available at all hours.”
“The whole team at ACF have been incredible throughout the process of the sale. No one should underestimate the sheer amount of knowledge and expertise required to undertake a sale and Thomas Dey walked us through with patience and understanding as well as a great sense of humour!”
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“Working with ACF I have always found their sound advice and guidance invaluable. They have worked tirelessly to make the sale process smooth, transparent and professional.”
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“Thomas Dey handled one of the most important moments in my life with perfect intuition, a real understanding of my aspirations and fears, a wealth of experience and professionalism, constant care and attention to detail, utter professionalism and a smile and healthy attitude every time we met. He has also remained a good friend. I would wholeheartedly recommend him to anyone contemplating a sale of a creative business.”
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