A trio of Black media heavyweights ― part-time Atlantan Shaquille O’Neal, producer 50 Cent and “black-ish” creator Kenya Barris ― have teamed up to try to buy BET and related entities, according to TMZ, citing unnamed sources.
They join Atlanta’s Tyler Perry, Byron Allen and Diddy, among others, who are seeking to purchase a majority stake in BET Media Group, which owns the BET cable network and studio, VH1, and the streaming service BET+. Cash from the sale would help Paramount build its streaming service Paramount+ and its free, ad-supported streaming service Pluto TV.
It’s unclear how close Paramount is in terms of a sale and there have been no leaks in terms of who among the suitors is nearest to the finish line. BET was originally created by Black businessman Robert Johnson in 1980. He and his partners sold it to Viacom (Paramount’s old name) in 2001 for $3 billion.
The latest investment group features three men with major TV and film connections.
O’Neal has acted in and produced movies over the years and is a ubiquitous presence on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” in Atlanta and multiple commercials.
Hip-hop star 50 Cent (real name: Curtis James Jackson III) has produced multiple successful Starz shows including “Power” and its spin-off shows, and “BMF,” which is shot in Atlanta.
Kenya Barris, who graduated Clark Atlanta University, wrote for sitcoms “The Game” and “Girlfriends,” co-wrote the Will Packer-produced hit 2017 film “Girls Trip” and created the ABC hit series “black-ish” and its spin-off shows.
TMZ said they have financial help from CVC Capital Partners, a private equity group. This deal is likely linked with Group Black, a media company in Miami run by Black executives, according to The New York Times.
Perry, the billionaire who owns Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, was the first name to leak out in early March as a possible buyer of BET. (He already is a minority owner of BET+.)
Allen, who owns multiple cable and TV stations as well as the Atlanta-based Weather Channel cable network, said he was interested as well. Then Diddy’s name popped up. He owns Revolt TV, a cable network whose production hub is out of Atlanta.
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