Argus Capital Corp., a special purpose acquisition vehicle backed by Joe Ianniello and other former CBS Corp. executives, went public Wednesday and is projected to raise about $265 million to acquire media, sports and entertainment-related properties.
Argus Capital’s pitch to investors and acquisition targets is that Ianniello and Argus president Marc DeBevoise have gathered a team of seasoned executives with expertise in operating the businesses that it hopes to acquire through the SPAC process. If Argus Capital doesn’t find enough entities to acquire within 18 months, it has to return capital to investors. As per the rules of SPACs, the $265 million raised through the IPO process will be held in a trust until the company identifies its first acquisition.
Ianniello, the former chief operating officer and CEO of CBS Corp., serves as chairman-CEO of Argus Capital. DeBevoise, former president of CBS Interactive and chief digital officer of ViacomCBS, is president and vice chairman. The company aims to look for openings media and entertainment and as well as related tech and support industries that are part of the wave of disruption that is up-ending Hollywood. Argus is hunting for deals that it calls “corporate carve-outs,” or assets that the largest media conglomerates decide to shed as strategies shift.
“I think we’re in the middle innings of the transformation of our business,” DeBevoise told Variety. “If you’re in media, entertainment or sports or anything tech-driven in those areas, there are lots of opportunities for new companies to emerge,”
As Argus told investors in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Monday, “our themes of interest include the digital transformation of well-known media brands, the production and distribution of premium content, the ability to enrich consumer experiences through interactive platforms, the launch and growth of subscription businesses that build off the strength and scale of media assets, the creation of live experiences and transformative events in the worlds of sports, lifestyle/fitness and digital media, among several others, the advancement of local media assets navigating political changes, and the global licensing of domestic content.”
DeBevoise acknowledged that the SPAC process has had sketchy results in the past. Argus aims to convince investors that it has the expertise on hand to properly evaluate potential acquisitions and to operate businesses as need be to help protect the company’s investments. Among the half-dozen other senior CBS alums who have reteamed with Ianniello at Argus include Dana McClintock (as Argus’ chief communications officer), Kelli Raftery (chief marketing officer), Charles Pavlounis (chief business development officer), Stephen Mirante (chief administration officer) and Maria Corsaro Charon (senior vice president of mergers & acquisitions).
DeBevoise was pushed out of ViacomCBS last October in one of the many restructurings since Viacom and CBS Corp. were brought together (for the second time) in December 2019. Ianniello exited ViacomCBS weeks after the merger was completed, given that the CEO role for the combined entity went to Viacom’s Bob Bakish.
Ianniello had indicated that he would look for investment opportunities amid the tumult in the content arena. DeBevoise siad he got a call from Ianniello in March of this year which set the ball rolling toward the Argus SPAC.
“Having this partnership and set of skill sets here enables us to drop in as management in various types and sizes of companies,” DeBevoise said. “We can take on things or serve as experts or coaches for people. We have the diligence and the experience to be the bridge to investors for those companies that need our operating experience to add the most value over time.”
(Pictured: Joe Ianniello and Marc DeBevoise)
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