Warner Bros. completes Eyeworks deal, Oerlemans exits

Eyeworks_Celebrity_SplashWarner Bros. International Television Production has paid a reported €200 million (US$273.3 million) to acquire Celebrity Splash producer Eyeworks, with the latter’s founder Reinout Oerlemans exiting as a result.

The deal, which has been in the works for the past month, lands Warner Bros. a production entity with bases in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Spain, Portugal, Australia and Latin America.

They will sit alongside WBITVP’s production business, which encompasses its UK base operation, a majority stake in UK super indie Shed Media that it is set to increase and ownership of Benelux prodco BlazHoffski.

However, the deal does not include Eyeworks USA, which Oerlemans will now lead as chairman. He will move to LA and step down as CEO of the Eyeworks Group once the deal is given the regulatory rubber stamp.

Warner Bros.’s International Television Production division had been in the market to acquire the other major Netherlands-based production group, Endemol, which produces Big Brother, but has now added Eyeworks to its stable. The division launched in 2009 under executive VP Ronald Goes.

Kevin Tsujihara, CEO, Warner Bros. Entertainment said: “Our proposed acquisition of Eyeworks’ 15 local production companies, represents a significant next step in our strategy, further strengthening Warner Bros.’ position in global television .”

Eyeworks hired bank Goldman Sachs to explore a possible sale in 2011 after several expressions of interest. This ultimately lead to nothing with Eyeworks management saying it wanted the company to remain independent.

Besides the wide-selling Celebrity Splash diving format, Eyeworks is known for formats such as Beat the Blondes. The company, founded in 2001 reported revenues of €250 million in 2012.

“It’s fair to say that it got me thinking when Warner Bros. showed the strong interest in Eyeworks,” said the outgoing Oerlemans. “For Eyeworks, this is a defining step towards our ongoing objective to be a major player in content production around the globe. I realize this is the end of an era, because I will no longer be the CEO of the group, after an amazing period of 12 and a half years since I’ve built the company from scratch together with Ronald van Wechem and Robert van den Bogaard.

“Together with CFO Jan Peter Kerstens we have created Eyeworks as what it is today: a creative and versatile content company, operating as a tight knit web around the world. I know Ronald Goes will be a tremendous leader for this fantastic group of talented people going forward”.

The deal is expected to close officially later in 2014, pending approvals.