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American Idol impresario sells business

Simon Fuller, the music entrepreneur behind the Spice Girls and American Idol, has sold 19 Entertainment, his privately-owned company, to U.S.-based CKX.
/ Source: Financial Times

Simon Fuller, the music entrepreneur behind the Spice Girls and Pop Idol, has sold 19 Entertainment, his privately-owned company, to CKX of the US for about $192 million.

CKX, the New York-based entertainment business, sealed the takeover within weeks of listing on Nasdaq and only three months after its high-profile acquisition of Elvis Presley Enterprises, which controls the assets of the Presley estate.

Fuller will become a senior director of the group which controls the commercial use of the Elvis name and likeness. CKX also operates the Graceland Museum, and earns revenues from the rock icon's TV shows, films and some of his music recordings.

"From the very first day we met it was clear that we shared the same dynamic vision for the direction of the entertainment industry," said Fuller.

The impresario shot to fame as the creative force on Pop Idol, the talent show contest that became a worldwide phenomena and spawned American Idol, the top-rated show on Fox in the United States. He also managed artists including Annie Lennox and Will Young, a former Pop Idol winner.

19 Entertainment also boasts a branding joint venture with David and Victoria Beckham, one of Britain's best-known celebrity couples.

Recently, however, Fuller hit the headlines in a legal dispute with Simon Cowell, his one-time business partner and vitriolic Pop Idol judge, over Cowell's involvement in X-Factor, a copy-cat TV talent show.

Robert FX Sillerman, chairman and chief executive of CKX, said the takeover of 19 would help it increase its entertainment business internationally.

The U.S. company, which began trading on Nasdaq earlier this month, had previously vowed to acquire rival groups with existing entertainment content.

CKX is paying about $124.4 million in cash along with 1.87 million shares for 19 Entertainment, augmented by a further $36.9 million payment in cash or stock following delivery of the UK group's results for the year ending June 30, 2005.

In the last financial year, pre-tax profits at 19 rose 3.5 percent to $13 million even though sales fell from $102.5 million to $92.7 million, according to figures filed with Companies House.

Fuller owns 75 percent of 19 Entertainment, with the remainder held by Ingenious Media, the boutique media investment bank.

The disposal marks the first exit by Ingenious Ventures, the private equity arm if the Ingenious Group, since the fund was launched in 2001. The company also advised Fuller on the sale, from which he could earn $144 million.