Undated handout photo of businessman Ron Burkle. (Andrew McPherson / Andrew…)
Billionaire mogul Ron Burkle has invested in a new branded entertainment company, broadening his rapidly growing stable of Hollywood-related businesses.
Burkle has partnered with publishing executive Richard Beckman and entertainment attorney Joel Katz of Greenberg Traurig to start Three Lions Entertainment, the company announced Monday. It will open headquarters in Midtown Manhattan in April, but is already operating out of temporary offices.
Three Lions will produce network television programs that embed advertisers' products within the shows. Those same advertisers will be able to air commercials that run during Three Lions' programs, and purchase ad time directly from the company.
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Three Lions will also create Internet-based content and in some cases print publications that will complement its TV programs and also feature advertisers' products. Three Lions' first project will be reviving the television specials "Fashion Rocks" and "Movies Rock" in 2014.
"The ad community is looking for scale, they are looking for intelligent ways to embed their commercial product within the editorial content," said Beckman, former president of the Conde Nast Media Group. "We not only create the content but we also create the activation across all the platforms.”
Burkle, chairman of investment firm Yucaipa Cos., has made a major push into the entertainment business in the last year or so. For much of his career, Burkle was known for his investment in the supermarket business, but in January 2012 he made a splash with a trio of acquisitions.
It was announced that month that the businessman was buying a stake in independent film studio Relativity Media, a controlling interest in the posh members-only club chain Soho House and concert promoter Artist Group International.
Beckman, who developed the business plan for Three Lions and serves as its chief executive, said he had been following Burkle's recent investments in the entertainment arena and reached out to the businessman via Katz, a mutual acquaintance. Burkle and Beckman met in January.
Burkle "seemed to like the opportunity in terms of it being a wide-open space," said Beckman, who was CEO of Prometheus Global Media, owner of trade publications The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard, from 2010 to 2012. "I'm excited about it. You have to be looking for a partner who has a long view of what you want to do."
Beckman declined to disclose the size of his investment in Three Lions, along with those of Burkle and Katz, who will serve as a minority partner. A spokesperson for Burkle did not immediately respond to requests for an interview with the businessman.
Beckman spearheaded five "Fashion Rocks" specials while at Conde Nast. The television programs featured live performances by musicians alongside the presentation of clothing from fashion designers. Beckman was last involved in the 2008 iteration of the special, which was hosted by Dennis Leary and featured performances by Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus and Beyonce, among others.
Three Lions acquired the rights to "Fashion Rocks" from the Gross Family Foundation Inc. Don Mischer, a veteran producer of Emmy and Academy Awards telecasts, will produce the upcoming "Fashion Rocks" show.
"Movies Rock," which aired once in 2007, centered on popular musicians performing songs from films. Three Lions acquired the rights to the program from Conde Nast.
Beckman said he is in the process of "nailing down" broadcast dates, and is working on deals with undisclosed television networks. (Three Lions' business model calls for it taking smaller license fees from a TV network in exchange for control of part of a program's commercial inventory -- allowing it to sell commercial time directly to advertisers, Beckman said.)
As for the company's name, Beckman said the suggestion that Three Lions refers to the company's trio of partners is a "great interpretation."
Said Beckman of Burkle and Katz, "They are certainly lions in their world."
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