Hello Sunshine, the mission-driven media business that puts women at the center of every story it creates, founded by Reese Witherspoon in 2016, recently announced a definitive agreement for a majority investment from a newly formed company. The company is 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. They will also remain significant equity holders in the business. Under the terms of the agreement, Witherspoon and Harden will join the new media company’s board.
A media business by and for women
Hello Sunshine is a female-led content and media business whose mission is to lead and change the narrative for women. It aims to 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. This includes scripted and unscripted television, feature films, animated series, podcasts, audio storytelling and digital series. The company has helped produce “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. 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. It will be established as an independent, creator-friendly home for cutting-edge, high-quality, category-defining brands and franchises. Hello Sunshine will serve 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.
Creating opportunities for women storytellers
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,” Witherspoon continued. “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.”
Investors and partners
Blackstone is making its investment through the firm’s flagship private equity business. The business previously acquired a majority stake in Bumble, a leading online dating platform founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd. 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.
Diverse content about women’s lives
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 content aims to shine a light on where women are now and helping them chart a new path forward. Hello Sunshine is currently in production on season two of the Emmy® award-winning series The Morning Show (Apple TV+). The season premieres September 17, 2021. Hello Sunshine is also behind 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); the limited series adaptation of the upcoming novel The Last Thing He Told Me, starring 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) and 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.
A multifaceted media business
One of Hello Sunshine’s shining stars and most distinctive offerings is Reese’s Book Club (RBC). The club has grown from 20,000 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. Forty-two 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. Fast Company Magazine named Hello Sunshine as the #2 Most Innovative Company in Media for 2020. Additionally, Time Magazine named the company one of its 100 Most Influential Companies of 2021.
The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions. Goldman Sachs & Co represented Hello Sunshine in the transaction. 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
Hello Sunshine is a media business that puts women at the center of every story it creates, celebrates and discovers. Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon founded the company in 2016. 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 aims to make meaningful connections with stories, authors and fellow members. Recently Hello Sunshine acquired Sara Rea’s SKR Productions to expand its unscripted content. They also announced the launch of their Kids & Animation Division to create content that celebrates a younger audience.
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.
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