Recently, ZM Capital and former DHX Media principal and Decode Entertainment co-founder Neil Court made an equity investment in 9 Story Limited. The investment is being made out of ZM Capital II, the latest private equity fund of the New York-based investment firm ZelnickMedia.
According to president and CEO Vince Commisso, “9 Story has enjoyed fantastic organic growth over the last decade.” This includes the company’s acquisition of CCI’s kids and family library last year.
Now, the new investment will allow 9 Story to pursue more opportunities, and Commisso indicated that 9 Story has its “eye on a few things that we are interested in.” Though he was unable to divulge specifics, Commisso did tell VideoAge that they have their eye on “more than one and less than 10 opportunities.” The investment largely represents the “opportunity to grow,” Commisso said. “We have ZM in New York and Neil Court in the U.K. Therefore, we expect to have more opportunities to grow more lines of business in those territories.”
Court has 33 years of experience as an international media entrepreneur and is also co-owner and chairman of Peacock Alley Entertainment, a Toronto-based reality and scripted series production and distribution company. Additionally, Court will continue as an advisor and board member at Dublin-based CGI animation studio Brown Bag Films.
Asked about a possible merge with Peacock Alley due to Court’s connection, Commisso replied, “There are no plans in that regard. We are two very different companies in regards to our content. 9 Story is focused on children’s and family content, primarily through animated and scripted content, while Peacock Alley focuses more on factual. We feel that this is what we know and we’ve never strayed from it.”
Commisso explained that the investment is particularly valuable for 9 Story because, “We were aware of the fact that our company had hit its inflection point in terms of our ability to grow organically. To keep the pace of growth we have had over the last few years, we’re going to have to complement it with acquisitions,” and that, of course, is where the investment comes in.
As far as opening more offices worldwide, Commisso said, “If we feel the lines of business in a particular territory justify having an office there, we will open an office. We hope to reach a point where we can be justified in opening on office in the U.K. and the U.S.”
“I’ve been looking for new opportunities in children’s media and 9 Story is the perfect fit,” Court said in a release, and 9 Story feels Court is a great fit as well. According to Commisso, “We are excited about this opportunity because we share a vision for the company and ZM and Neil really want to support it. We had other options, but some of the other options wouldn’t have been as coherent in our synergy and others wouldn’t have let us take charge of the direction in which the company will move.”
He added, “We are dealing with fantastic people who are media savvy, and when you remove the financial aspect, it’s really about where we see this company going and how they can help. They agree with our vision and there have been no changes here. Private equity is really about supporting management, not about making changes. It has been everything I expected and more,” Commisso concluded.
Court is now the executive chairman of the seven-member board, and he will carry out his duties from the U.K. Court will be responsible for looking at opportunities for 9 Story to grow in the U.K. territory and other parts of the world. Commisso continues to serve as president and CEO, though he will report to a newly formed board of directors. 9 Story’s existing management team will also continue to lead the company. The board is majority controlled by Canadians.
Commisso believes that Court, “Brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and brains in the industry to the company.”