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Billionaire May Cast Genesis Into Big Leagues : Television: Ronald O. Perelman's purchase of a 50% interest comes after the Agoura Hills syndicator saw its late-night "Whoopi Goldberg" show canceled.

June 29, 1993|JENNIFER PENDLETON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

But when local TV stations stopped buying one-hour network shows, Genesis came up with the then-novel approach of selling the show for advertising time rather than cash. "Highway to Heaven" became the first off-network TV show to be sold in this manner in the late afternoon time slot. Today, it's a common industry practice.

As part of its deal with Perelman, Genesis now has a distribution agreement with Perelman's Four Star library. That means Genesis will probably be out there pitching independent TV stations to buy rights to air reruns of 1960s TV series, such as "Honey West," "Burke's Law," and "The Big Valley." The library also includes 200 feature films, which Genesis may also try to sell to stations in movie packages.

In addition, Genesis gains remake rights to some of the Four Star TV series--rights that could prove valuable, given that more films are being made that revive '60s TV series.

Lepoff said he and Gannaway carefully considered Perelman's offer, reluctant to give up total say over the company they've nurtured for 10 years. The Gannaway-Lepoff partnership works well, by all reports. Lepoff, a certified public accountant with a cautious manner, complements the more mercurial Gannaway, who is said to ride his sales staff hard. Gannaway likes to say that when he convinced Lepoff, his one-time accountant, to join Genesis, he "saved him from himself."

At present, Genesis has 44 employees, 27 in Agoura Hills, the rest in New York. It has no plans to switch from its out-of-the-way headquarters. Lepoff argues that its location doesn't make any difference since Genesis' business mostly focuses on TV stations far from Los Angeles anyway.

Now with extra cash from Perelman, Genesis can produce new episodes of "Real Stories of the Highway Patrol," a five-day-a-week reality show featuring recreations of actual adventures of the lawmen of America's freeways. Genesis also syndicates "Emergency Call," a reality series now in its third season, and "Paradise Beach," a new soap opera chronicling the lives and loves of svelte teen-agers in Australia's Gold Coast.

It's currently developing programming for daytime TV and in the future, for cable. There's Family Circle Magazine, a one-hour daytime show it may produce through an arrangement with the women's magazine, and "Tabloids Behind the Headlines," a magazine show examining how shows like "Hard Copy" and "Geraldo" get their material.

Genesis' business plan calls for 15% to 20% annual revenue growth. Lepoff said he hopes to achieve those goals by making its existing shows more successful--getting them carried on more stations or placed in more highly rated time periods--and by stepping up the number of new shows it backs.

"There's still a long way to go," concluded Lepoff.

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