A Force in Hollywood’s Private-Equity Boom Adds a Spanish-Language Company

Candle Media, the private-equity-backed company that has invested in firms founded by Hollywood stars such as Reese Witherspoon, has settled on its latest target: Exile Content Studio, a producer of Spanish-language films, TV shows and podcasts.

Candle Media, which is run by Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs, former senior executives at the Walt Disney Company, said on Monday that it was acquiring Exile in a cash-and-stock deal. Exile’s management team, which includes its founder and chief executive, Isaac Lee, will join Candle Media.

Executives from Candle Media and Exile declined to disclose the price of the deal. The combined value of Candle Media’s deals, which are bankrolled by the private equity firm Blackstone, so far total around $4 billion, according to a person with knowledge of the business who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the deal.

In an interview, Mr. Staggs said he and Mr. Mayer had zeroed in on Exile because the company would help Candle Media reach the growing audience of Spanish speakers, which he said numbered more than 550 million globally. He said the company’s breadth of content — across streaming, traditional television, podcasts and music — was also a selling point.

“We think it can open up new opportunities for us with creators that we might not otherwise reach,” Mr. Staggs said.

Founded in 2019, Exile produces TV shows and films with streaming services and TV networks. Its productions include a scripted series for Netflix with Diego Luna, a “Rogue One” star, as a showrunner; the children’s show “Club Mundo Kids” for Amazon Prime; and a docuseries on the Spanish soccer team Real Madrid for HBO.

In an interview, Mr. Lee said he had already begun working with Moonbug Entertainment, the Candle Media company that owns the popular children’s TV show “CoComelon,” to vet ideas for shows he planned to introduce. Exile is also working with Hello Sunshine, the media company founded by Ms. Witherspoon and purchased by Candle Media, on an as-yet-unannounced project.

“Integrations in general are very cumbersome and difficult,” Mr. Lee said. “In this case, they are organic, natural, and they work incredibly well.”

Candle Media and Exile began talking about a deal last fall. In November, they reached an agreement on the broad strokes of a buyout, but it didn’t come to fruition for several months because Candle Media was busy scouting and executing other deals.

Candle Media is the most prominent player in the private-equity boom that has swept Hollywood in recent months as investors seek to cash in on the growing demand for streaming content. Mr. Mayer and Mr. Staggs are betting that intellectual property — the basis for major movie franchises, TV shows and books — will become only more valuable as audiences shift to streaming video and support creators by purchasing merchandise and digital goods including NFTs, or nonfungible tokens.

Candle Media could sell or go public in a matter of years. Private equity firms usually seek to recoup their investments over a period of several years, either through a public offering or by selling to another company in the same sector.

In addition to its acquiring Moonbug and Hello Sunshine, Candle Media has purchased a stake in Westbrook, a company founded by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. It has also acquired ATTN:, a media company that produces short-form entertainment and news content.

The deal is a reunion of sorts for Mr. Mayer and Mr. Lee, who in 2013 — when Mr. Mayer was at Disney and Mr. Lee was an executive at Univision — jointly launched a cable channel called Fusion aimed at English-speaking Latinos. The channel was part of an ambitious but ill-fated strategy orchestrated by Mr. Lee to give Univision a foothold among younger audiences.

“The one bright light there was getting to know him and working with him and understanding his philosophy,” Mr. Mayer said.

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