The power ranger who bought Univision
(Fortune Magazine) -- Haim Saban, founder and CEO, Saban Capital Group
An Egyptian-born, pro-Israel Hollywood mogul is the last person you'd expect to purchase the largest Spanish-language broadcasting company in the U.S. But Haim Saban, 62, isn't known for doing the obvious. He parlayed a fortune built on American kids' shows into political clout, donating some $11 million over the past four years to both Democrats and Republicans. And now Saban's looking to dominate the burgeoning $800 billion Hispanic market. In June he beat out Grupo Televisa (and a private equity team) to purchase Univision for $13.7 billion. Here he explains to Fortune's Jenny Mero why Spanish speakers and talking dogs represent the future of the media business.
You teamed up this summer with a consortium of private equity shops to buy Univision. What got you interested in the Hispanic market?
Univision addresses the fastest-growing part of the population - and it's a growth that in my view is very sustainable. I won't get into a debate about immigration, but if you look at pure numbers - the demographics, spending power, and growth potential - you say, "Holy cow!"
How did you get involved?
In July 2005 I went to [the majority owner and CEO of Univision (Charts)] Jerry Perenchio and offered him a deal for his shares. Jerry's answer was very interesting. He said, "I'm not ready to sell. But call me once a month." I did. Then one day he told me, "Look, we're going to sell the whole company, not just my shares. There's going to be an auction, and you're welcome to bid along with everyone else."
Your private equity fund recently launched Saban Virtual Studios, a new venture to develop family entertainment. How will it work?
It will produce original content that can be distributed across multimedia platforms. The first project, Hollywood Star Dogs, was just unveiled in Cannes. It features a troupe of live-action talking dogs that portray classic fairy tales.
You're one of the most generous donors to the Democrats. What does the party need to do to win the White House in 2008?
I have three ideas:
1. Put Hillary on the ticket.
2. Put Hillary on the ticket.
3. Put Hillary on the ticket.
I think she will be a fantastic President. She has the best vision for America.
You lived in Israel for 17 years. Do you have any desire to get involved in the peace process directly?
I'm just an ex-cartoon schlepper trying to contribute the little bit I can to the peace process.
Would you consider switching from political donor to political candidate?