"American Idol" Parent Company Is Close to Going Private

Everyone knows the TV show, American Idol, but few are familiar with the name of the franchise owner -- CKX Inc.(CKXE). The company is now in the spotlight because it's "in the late stages of a buyout transaction led by One Equity Partners, J.P. Morgan's private-equity arm,"according to The Wall Street Journal.

CEO Robert F.X. Sillerman currently controls the company and is expected to keep his stake of nearly 21%. The entertainment entrepreneur made most of his money in the radio and concert businesses and has also produced a number of Broadway shows, including The Producers. Recent setbacks in his real estate holdings have eroded his net worth.

CKX is involved in several other businesses. It owns 85% of Elvis Presley Enterprises, which makes money from the image of the "King of Rock and Roll." The company also owns certain rights to the name and image of Muhammad Ali.

Higher Offer Expected

The transaction doesn't pay investors any premium. The offer will probably be for $6, which is 9% higher than the company's price at the close of trading Mar. 25, but word of the transaction got out on Mar. 26 and drove the shares up to $6.17. This indicates market expectations that One Equity Partners will have to raise its offer.

The company's investors may object to the deal. Before the buyout news broke, CKX shares have been lower, to some extent because well-known judges such as Simon Cowell are leaving American Idol. The company's 52-week high is $8.24. If One Equity Partners raises the price enough, American Idol and "Elvis" will be private.