Reese Witherspoon Sold Hello Sunshine Media Company to Blackstone Group Inc.

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Reese Witherspoon Sold Hello Sunshine Media Company to Blackstone Group Inc.
Reese Witherspoon Sold Her Media Company Hello Sunshine to Blackstone Group

Hello Sunshine, Reese Witherspoon’s media company, is being sold to a firm backed by private-equity giant Blackstone Group Inc., as part of a strategy to establish an independent entertainment company for Hollywood’s streaming era, according to the businesses.

The specifics of the agreement were not disclosed by the firms. Ms. Witherspoon’s firm, whose production slate includes included HBO thriller “Big Little Lies,” is valued at around $900 million, according to people familiar with the issue.

Former Walt Disney executives Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs will lead the yet-to-be-named media company that Blackstone is funding. Its first purchase will be Hello Sunshine. Ms. Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine CEO Sarah Harden will join the new company’s board of directors and will continue to run Hello Sunshine.

According to sources familiar with the issue, Blackstone is spending more than $500 million in cash to buy shares from current Hello Sunshine investors, including AT&T Inc. T +0.75 percent and Emerson Collective. Ms. Witherspoon, as well as some Hello Sunshine employees and investors, will convert the remaining shares into interests in Blackstone’s new firm.

The acquisition is a big validation of Ms. Witherspoon’s belief that Hollywood needs more tales written by and for women, according to Ms. Witherspoon, the actress and businesswoman who launched Hello Sunshine in 2016. Hulu’s “Little Fires Everywhere” and Apple Inc.’s “The Morning Show” are two more Hello Sunshine offerings.

Ms. Witherspoon stated, “I’m going to double down on that commitment to recruit more female artists from all walks of life and promote their stories.” “This is a significant step forward in the world because it demonstrates that women’s experiences are important.”

Messrs. Mayer and Staggs are looking for content firms in the midst of a Hollywood land grab for high-quality programmes. Streaming services are attempting to feed their platforms with as much premium TV and movie material as possible, from incumbents such as Netflix Inc. to new services established by conventional heavyweights.

According to a source familiar with the situation, Amazon.com Inc. just agreed to buy MGM Holdings for $8.45 billion, including debt, and SpringHill Co., the business established by LeBron James, is looking to sell for $750 million.

Mr. Staggs manages a special-purpose purchase firm with Mr. Mayer that is not funded by Blackstone. The two executives are in talks with other companies, including Will Smith’s and Jada Pinkett-media Smith’s company, Westbrook Inc.

The shift to a streaming-driven Hollywood is affecting the profitability of producing content. As big studios direct movies and series to their own streaming platforms, they may come into conflict with performers and producers who want to guarantee that their work is valued as highly as possible. Last week, Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit against Walt Disney Co., alleging that the corporation breached her contract by distributing the Marvel picture “Black Widow” on Disney+ at the same time it was released in theatres.

Mr. Mayer stated that, similar to Hello Sunshine, the new firm will be free to license shows to any studio or network, providing it an advantage over large studios that must feed their own streaming platforms.

Mr. Mayer stated, “The big players aren’t licensing their material outside of their own exclusive walled gardens.” “And that’s where a large, independent company like ours can truly stand out in the market.”

The worth of Hello Sunshine’s previous titles to the new Blackstone-backed business will vary. According to several persons acquainted with the agreement, Hello Sunshine co-owns titles like “Little Fires Everywhere” and retains the ability to sell them to other distributors when original licenses expire. Hello Sunshine acts as a producer on several other series, such as “Big Little Lies” and “The Morning Show,” but does not retain co-ownership.

Any new programming created by Ms. Witherspoon’s firm would be owned by the new corporation. According to sources familiar with the situation, Hello Sunshine, which will be profitable this year, also has a kids and animation business with a coming slate that includes four projects with four separate streaming platforms.

Reese’s Book Club, which curates titles for readers and hosts events for members, is also run by Hello Sunshine. When the company’s executives are negotiating for the rights to transform novels into programmes and movies, Ms. Harden says the company’s relationship with writers helps. “We have an edge in tentpoling a book and shining a spotlight on it,” she explained.

The firm’s real-estate division is a significant landlord in Burbank and Hollywood, with offices and studio space. It signed an agreement with Hudson Pacific Properties Inc. on Sunday to construct new film and television facilities in the United Kingdom.

Through its long-term private-equity fund, Blackstone controls music-rights group Sesac Performing Rights LLC, and it announced in March that it will invest in royalty-free music platform Epidemic Sound through its growth fund.

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