A newly formed company run by entertainment executives Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs and backed by Blackstone has agreed to make a majority investment in Hello Sunshine, a women-focused media company founded by actress Reese Witherspoon. No financial terms were disclosed. According to terms of the deal, Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine’s existing senior management team, led by CEO Sarah Harden, will continue to oversee Hello Sunshine’s day-to-day operations and remain significant equity holders in the business.
LOS ANGELES & NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Hello Sunshine, the mission-driven media company that puts women at the center of every story it creates, founded by Reese Witherspoon in 2016, today announced a definitive agreement for a majority investment from a newly formed company run by leading entertainment executives Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs and backed by investment capital from Blackstone, a leading global investment business. Reese Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine’s existing senior management team, led by CEO Sarah Harden, will continue to oversee Hello Sunshine’s day-to-day operations and remain significant equity holders in the business. Under the terms of the agreement, Witherspoon and Harden will join the new media company’s board.
Hello Sunshine is a female-led content and media business whose mission is to lead and change the narrative for women and provide original content focusing on the narratives and experiences of women. This deal enables Hello Sunshine to accelerate its already strong growth, while also remaining independent. Hello Sunshine creates content across all platforms – from scripted and unscripted television, feature films, animated series, podcasts, audio storytelling, and digital series – including productions such as “Big Little Lies,” “The Morning Show,” and “Little Fires Everywhere.” It is also home to Reese’s Book Club – one of the largest and most influential book clubs in the world with many of its best-selling picks developed and produced for screen by Hello Sunshine.
This is the first investment for Mayer and Staggs’ new media company backed by Blackstone, which will be established as an independent, creator-friendly home for cutting-edge, high-quality, category-defining brands and franchises – with Hello Sunshine as a cornerstone, initial pillar of that strategy. By bringing together elite talent operating at the intersection of content, community, and commerce, it will help position leading entertainment businesses for accelerated, sustainable growth in the current market and beyond.
Reese Witherspoon said: “Today marks a tremendous moment for Hello Sunshine. I started this company to change the way all women are seen in media. Over the past few years, we have watched our mission thrive through books, TV, film and social platforms. Today, we’re taking a huge step forward by partnering with Blackstone, which will enable us to tell even more entertaining, impactful and illuminating stories about women’s lives globally. I couldn’t be more excited about what this means for our future. I am committed to continuing to create opportunity for filmmakers, authors and creators of all backgrounds and experiences to tell their stories in their own way, and to reach more audiences who will see that their stories matter. This is a unique time in our world where the intersection of art, commerce and media makes it possible for these creators to tell their stories and Hello Sunshine is here to put a spotlight on their amazing creations. I am deeply proud of the team that got us to this incredible moment, and I’m thrilled to be working with Blackstone, Kevin, and Tom to grow a next generation media company. They are committed to helping our mission to empower women and the people who celebrate them. One story at a time.”
Sarah Harden said: “We began Hello Sunshine with a clear vision and an ambition to build a female-powered media company that centered on women’s stories, and it has been incredible to work alongside Reese and the entire Hello Sunshine team to turn that vision into a reality. Kevin and Tom and our partners at Blackstone see what we see – women’s stories matter, and we have economic power as consumers, creators and business leaders. Their commitment enables us to double-down on our mission and our ambitious growth agenda. Reese and our whole team are honored to be part of this new media company from the beginning and to have the opportunity to help shape its future.”
Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs said: “We are thrilled to partner with Reese, Sarah, and the entire Hello Sunshine team. Hello Sunshine is a perfect fit for our vision of a new, next generation entertainment, technology, and commerce company. We seek to empower creators with innovation, capital, and scale to inspire, entertain, and delight global audiences with engaging content, experiences, and products. Our platform will foster a uniquely creator-friendly culture that gives elite talent the resources they need to create and capitalize on their best, most inventive work. We look forward to backing Reese, Sarah, and their world-class team as they continue to produce and identify dynamic, engaging content for years to come.”
Joe Baratta, Global Head of Private Equity at Blackstone, said: “The rapidly growing demand for high-quality content is one of our firm’s highest-conviction investment themes. We are excited to have partnered with Kevin and Tom, and now Reese, Sarah and Hello Sunshine – a pioneer and category leader in the historically underserved market of female-focused content. Reese is a visionary founder and entrepreneur who has built an extraordinary business with a long runway for continued expansion.”
Blackstone’s investment is being made through the firm’s flagship private equity business, which previously acquired a majority stake in Bumble – a leading online dating platform founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd where women make the first move. Blackstone has also made a range of entertainment, digital, and content-focused investments across its businesses, including music rights organization SESAC; a significant Hollywood studio space and Burbank office real estate portfolio; global theme park operator Merlin Entertainments; leading global, online genealogy platform Ancestry.com; online mobile ad platforms Vungle and Liftoff; and Epidemic Sound, which delivers music to internet content creators across the globe; among others.
Hello Sunshine’s investors and partners include AT&T (via founding and follow-on investment from Otter Media), Emerson Collective, Seth Rodsky and Jim Toth.
Since launching in 2016, Hello Sunshine has put together a robust content slate – from scripted and unscripted television, feature films, animated series, podcasts, audio storytelling, and digital series – all shining a light on where women are now and helping them chart a new path forward. On the scripted television side, Hello Sunshine is currently in production on season two of the Emmy® award-winning series The Morning Show (Apple TV+), which premieres September 17, 2021, and the NAACP award-winning series Truth Be Told (Apple TV+), limited series adaptations of The New York Times Bestsellers and Reese’s Book Club picks, From Scratch, starring Zoe Saldana (Netflix) and Daisy Jones and the Six, starring Riley Keough and Sam Claflin (Amazon) as well as the limited series adaptation of the upcoming novel The Last Thing He Told Me, starring Oscar winner Julia Roberts (Apple TV+) and the original thriller series Surface (Apple TV+) starting Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
The company is also behind five-time Emmy nominated limited series Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu), season 2 of HBO’s Golden Globe® and Emmy Award-winning series Big Little Lies. The company garnered an impressive 18 Emmy nominations in 2020 for company-produced series.
Unscripted series include the hit home organization series, The Home Edit with Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, for Netflix and the upcoming competition series My Kind of Country for Apple TV+, the first of its kind for the platform. In 2020 Hello Sunshine acquired award winning showrunner Sara Rea’s SKR Productions, the production company behind the ground-breaking unscripted series Making the Cut (Amazon Prime Video) with Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. Season 2 of the global fashion series debuted earlier this month.
On the film side, they are producing the highly anticipated film adaptation of one of Reese’s Book Club’s most beloved selections, the chart-topping New York Times Bestselling novel WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING (3000 Pictures/Sony), starring Daisy Edgar Jones, as well as Aline Brosh McKenna’s feature directorial debut, YOUR PLACE OR MINE (Netflix). Additional feature film projects that have been announced include THE CACTUS (Netflix) written by Little Fires Everywhere scribe, Liz Tigelaar, and LEGALLY BLONDE 3 (MGM), written by Mindy Kaling and Dan Goor.
One of Hello Sunshine’s shining stars and most distinctive offerings is Reese’s Book Club (RBC). Grown from 20 thousand followers to 2.1 million organically, RBC has one of the largest social followings for any book club and recently launched a corresponding app. The book club has also spawned a YA book club for young readers. 42 out of the 50 picks selected by RBC have made the New York Times Best Sellers list (46 out of 58 total picks including YA picks).
The company’s executive team includes CEO Sarah Harden, COO, Liz Jenkins, President of Film and Television, Lauren Neustadter, Head of Unscripted, Sara Rea, Head of Kids and Animation, Claire Curley, and Head of Brand Partnerships, Zoe Fairbourn. Hello Sunshine was named the #2 Most Innovative Company in Media for 2020 by Fast Company Magazine and one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Companies of 2021.
The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Hello Sunshine was represented in the transaction by Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC and Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal advisor. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP served as legal advisor to Blackstone and the newly formed media company.
About Hello Sunshine
Founded by Reese Witherspoon, Hello Sunshine is a media company that puts women at the center of every story it creates, celebrates and discovers. Hello Sunshine tells stories across all platforms – from scripted and unscripted television, feature films, animated series, podcasts, audio storytelling, and digital series – all shining a light on where women are now and helping them chart a new path forward. Hello Sunshine is also home to Reese’s Book Club and the newly launched RBC App. Fast growing in reach and influence, this community is propelled by meaningful connections with stories, authors and fellow members. Recently Hello Sunshine acquired Sara Rea’s SKR Production to expand its unscripted content and also announced the launch of their Kids & Animation Division to create content that celebrates a younger audience. Hello Sunshine was named the #2 Most Innovative Company in Media for 2020 by Fast Company Magazine and one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Companies of 2021.
Blackstone is the world’s largest alternative asset manager. We seek to create positive economic impact and long-term value for our investors, the companies we invest in, and the communities in which we work. We do this by using extraordinary people and flexible capital to help companies solve problems. Our $684 billion in assets under management include investment vehicles focused on private equity, real estate, public debt and equity, life sciences, growth equity, opportunistic, non-investment grade credit, real assets and secondary funds, all on a global basis. Further information is available at www.blackstone.com. Follow Blackstone on Twitter @Blackstone.