Several unnamed sources have reported that video streaming service Hulu has once again enlisted the services of Guggenheim Partners Executive Chairman Alan Schwartz to assist the company in its most recent attempt to sell itself.
Hulu had previously hired Schwartz as an advisor for its attempted 2011 sale which ended unsuccessfully as the company could not find a bidder willing to pay enough. Neither Guggenheim, nor Hulu, nor its owners, The Walt Disney Company (DIS) and News Corp. (NWS), were willing to offer any comment on the matter.
The news is particularly significant in that Guggenheim’s new Digital Media Unit, headed by former News Corp. executive Ross Levinsohn, is itself reported to be considering a bid for Hulu, which would place the New York investment firm on both sides of the deal. While Guggenheim in theory maintains a strict separation between investment banking and asset management, the potential for conflict of interest, or at least allegations thereof, is inevitable.
Hulu boasts more than 3 million paying subscribers (at a monthly fee of $7.99), and pulls in the rest of its revenue from the advertising-space that it sells for its free service. The company says that it brought in $700 million in revenues in 2012.
During Hulu’s first attempted sale, bids came from Google (GOOG), Dish Network (DISH), Yahoo, Inc. (YHOO), and Amazon.com (AMZN). While Dish reportedly offered almost $2 billion, Google is said to have offered as much as $4 billion.
This time around, bids have so far come from former Hulu board member and former News Corp President Peter Chernin, who has bid $500 million in addition to offering to take on the company’s $330 million in debt. There was also some speculation about Hulu’s current owners trying to buy each other out.
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