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‘American Idol’ Owner CKX Ends Talks to Sell Company

CKX Inc., owner of the “American Idol” television show, said it ended discussions to sell the company or a controlling stake, seven months after the talks were first acknowledged.

The board said proposals received from a number of parties weren’t in the best interest of shareholders, New York-based CKX said today in a statement, without identifying the bidders.

CKX said in late March that it was in discussions about a possible sale. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s One Equity Partners private-equity arm was near an agreement to take the company private, a person with knowledge of the talks said at that time. Bids later emerged from CKX founder Robert F.X. Sillerman, who stepped down as chief executive in May to pursue a controlling stake, and from a separate investor group led by Simon Fuller, the creator of the “Idol” series.

Investors had been pursuing CKX as its No. 1 U.S. TV show franchise began to falter with a 9 percent ratings drop last season. “Idol,” which airs on News Corp.’s Fox broadcast network, is undergoing a makeover ahead of the 10th season with new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler and the return of executive producer Nigel Lythgoe.

This marks the second set of failed sale talks in the last three years. Fuller and Sillerman tried to take the company private together in 2007, dropping the $12-a-share bid in 2008.

As recently as August, Sillerman said he was preparing a cash offer of $5.50 to $5.75 a share for a majority stake in CKX. The proposal called for Sillerman, CKX’s biggest investor with 21 percent of the stock, to return as executive chairman.

Fuller Bid

Since then the shares have fallen 20 percent, giving CKX a market capitalization of about $401 million, based on Bloomberg data. CKX fell 6 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $4.31 today in Nasdaq Stock Market trading before the termination of the sale discussions was announced.

CKX received a $600 million bid from Fuller, a person familiar with the offer said in May. It valued the company at about $6.45 a share.

CKX owns two-thirds of the “Idol” brand and co-produces the show in the U.S. with Fremantle Media, owner of the other third, according to the company’s annual report. CKX’s 19 Entertainment has a global television and production agreement with Fremantle.

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