Wiip, the independent studio behind recent HBO hit “Mare of Easttown” and Apple TV Plus’ breakout “Dickinson,” has been acquired by South Korean TV drama production firm JTBC Studios.
JTBC Studios will take a majority ownership in wiip, while CAA, which had previously been the majority owner of the company, will now move to a minority stake. Exiting the partnership is private equity firm Atwater Capital, which is selling its stake as part of the deal.
The deal comes following the talent guilds agreed to sell their production arms as part of a deal with the Writers Guild of America to end their long standoff. As part of the CAA-WGA negotiation, CAA agreed to transfer its ownership to a blind trust. Under the side letter agreement, the trust was required to divest the stake to conform to a 20% ownership cap.
CAA, which was previously the the majority owner of wiip, will remain a minority shareholder in the Paul Lee-led company, presumably at that cap.
Former ABC Entertainment chairman Paul Lee will continue to oversee wiip – an acronym for ‘word,’ ‘idea,’ ‘imagination’ and ‘production’ – which he first founded in 2018. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to see our partners at JTBC Studios recognize the tremendous creativity coming out of wiip and significantly increase their investment,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to doing more business together in the US, Korea and the rest of the world to attract the highest level of talent together.”
Lee founded wiip in 2018 with Matteo Perale, former head of strategy and corporate development for CAA and Infront Sports & Media. The news comes just after the buzzy Sunday night finale of “Mare of Easttown” on HBO; “Dickinson” completed its second season on Apple TV Plus in February. Other wiip projects in the works include Amazon Prime Video’s “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” HBO Max’s “The Uninhabitable Earth,” FX on Hulu’s “Pistol” and HBO’s “The White House Plumbers.”
For JTBC Studios, this represents the company’s move into U.S. production. “The US market is the heartland of the content business,” said Si Kyoo Kim, CEO of JTBC Studios. “We expect this partnership to bring a significant opportunity for JTBC Studios to make our first step into this dynamic market, for which we have yearned for a long time. We believe that this partnership between outstanding creative talents at JTBC Studios and wiip will deliver an unprecedented experience for a global audience.”
CAA president Jim Burtson also touted the acquisition, and the agency’s continued involvement with the company. “The marketplace has embraced wiip’s unique position as an independent entertainment company that gives artists more control and ownership of their content, and a quicker path to production and distribution,” he said. “With exceptional partners JTBC Studios investing new capital and strategic insight, we’re more excited than ever to continue to support Paul and wiip as they create the next generation of premium content for buyers worldwide.”
Atwater Capital had invested more than $100 million in capital since the studio’s open, and earlier this year had closed on a long-term debt facility for wiip to support its growth and bolster its balance sheet. Atwater became a minority shareholder in wiip in 2020.
“With this investment from JTBC Studios, we are excited to witness two leaders in IP development and content production in the East and the West come together to cross-pollinate globally relevant content,” said Vania Schlogel, founder and managing partner at Atwater Capital and a member of wiip’s advisory board.
JTBC Studios is the production arm of South Korean pay TV network JTBC (Joongang Tongyang Broadcasting Company), which launched in 2011.
Moelis & Company (financial) and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP (legal) advised wiip. Lee & Ko (legal), Latham & Watkins (legal) and KPMG (financial) advised JTBC Studios. Cole Schotz (legal) advised Atwater.
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