Former media chief Edgar Bronfman Jr. is starting a venture firm called Waverley Capital with longtime investor Daniel Leff, reports Bloomberg, which says the two are looking to raise up to $100 million.
The idea: to target media investments.
Media companies are an abiding passion for Bronfman Jr., the former head of Warner Music. He led Seagram’s, the liquor business built by his grandfather, Samuel, into the entertainment industry — and eventually an ill-fated acquisition in 2000 by France’s Vivendi. Seagram’s owned Universal Studios and Universal Music Group at the time and sold for $32 billion in an all-stock deal, but Vivendi’s fortune’s abruptly turned, dragged down by the dot.com bubble’s burst and one too many acquisitions (including the TV and film company Canal Plus and the educational publisher Houghton Mifflin).
In fact, despite the well-documented revenue struggles of streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, Bronfman Jr. — who left Warner in 2012 after selling the unit to billionaire Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries — told CNBC earlier this year that he thinks “music is probably as compelling a content story as there is right now.”
Said Bronfman Jr., “I think ultimately, music is better off under a streaming or subscription model than it was, even in the ‘80s and ‘90s when it was selling albums” because “more people will be buying music” even if it’s “less people than the fanatics who were buying albums.” At the end of the day, he added, “it broadens [music’s] distribution base.”
Bronfman Jr. is no stranger to making investments. Even while serving as chairman and CEO of Warner Music, he served as the managing partner at Accretive, an 18-year-old private equity and venture firm based in New York.
In fact, readers might recall that Accretive, along with Access Industries, made a spurned offer to buy Time Inc. last year. Bronfman Jr — probably rightly — called Time a “magazine company begging to be a media company.” (Time more recently decided not to sell itself.)
Bronfman’s co-founder in Waverley Partners, Leff, has been running Luminari Capital, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based digital media fund, since 2013.
Leff sits on the boards of a number of media companies, including the newly public digital streaming platform company Roku, the Internet TV service fuboTV and a Snapchat-focused marketing company called Naritiv that sold in part to Hootsuite earlier this year.
He was previously an investor with Globespan Capital Partners for more than five years.
According to Variety, Bronfman intends to spend a substantial portion of his time on the firm’s activities, but Leff will run the firm’s day-to-day operations.
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