Byron Allen in 2019. Comedian and television producer Byron Allen, founder and CEO of Entertainment Studios, in 2019. (Robert Hanashiro/USA Today.)

A new figure has entered the bidding for CBS parent company Paramount Global. That would be Byron Allen and his Allen Media Group (formerly Entertainment Studios). That company, which owns The Weather Channel, more than 30 local affiliates, and more (including an equity stake in Bally Sports parent Diamond Sports Group), has put in an offer that would see it pay $28.58 for all outstanding voting shares of Paramount Global and $21.53 for the non-voting shares (a total of $14.3 billion), plus assume the company’s debt load of more than $15 billion. That’s as per Christopher Palmeri of Bloomberg:

This bid, which comes with unnamed strategic partners as per an Allen Media Group release, is far from Allen’s first big swing. In 2021, he reportedly was “weighing” an $8 billion offer for Tegna’s local affiliates. In 2022, he and an investor group discussed a $3 billion to $4 billion bid on the NFL’s Denver Broncos, eventually losing out to the Walton-Penner family’s $4.65 billion bid. And last year, Allen put in a $10 billion offer for ABC following Disney CEO Bob Iger’s discussion of possibly selling that linear network (although Iger later walked that back and said he was just looking to see what bids he might get). And in December, he put in a $3.5 billion bid for BET and VH1 (owned by Paramount Global).

Allen is also far from the only bidder taking a look at Paramount Global. There’s been talk for some time of Warner Bros. Discovery trying to buy them, or Skydance Media, or perhaps even NBC parent Comcast (although there would be extreme antitrust scrutiny if the owner of another linear broadcast network tried to buy CBS). And just who Allen’s “strategic partners” are and how much they’re putting in would be key to this deal, as it does not look like either Allen (with an estimated net worth of $800 million per a number of reports late last year) or Allen Media Group has close to this amount of money on their own. (Allen Media Group’s exact finances are unclear, but the company cited revenues of $600 million in a Los Angeles Business Journal piece in 2020.)

But buying with heavy amounts of credit would not be new for Allen. That 2020 piece also discusses the company getting around $1 billion in investment in a debt refinancing that year, with an eye to further big deals. And a Fortune piece from Paolo Confino last fall around the ABC bid went through the company’s often-leveraged recent acquisitions strategy, and the concerns that has raised at times:

Allen spent the next decade or so buying up local television stations and managing syndicated programming. An interview he gave to PBS Newshour in 2022 suggested that he relied on reinvesting whatever profits his syndication would generate because, he told the public broadcaster, no bank would give him a loan in the first 15 years of his company and he regularly struggled to organize financing.

It’s been a very different story in recent years, as Byron has gone on a debt-fueled acquisition spree, branching out into local news, digital media, and a variety of different programming to build out his syndication and production businesses. Detractors, including credit ratings firm Moody’s, have been wary of Allen’s habit of financing his M&A deals with credit. “Management’s financial policy allows for high leverage that is currently above our tolerance,” Moody’s wrote back in 2018, according to Bloomberg.

At any rate, Allen’s bid here is certainly notable. And it may lead to some of these other suitors actually making bids. And it’s already led to a stock price jump for Paramount Global, which went from a close of $13.68 per share Tuesday to an open of $15.66 (a 15 percent rise) Wednesday, although it was back at $15.27 as of 10 a.m. Eastern. We’ll see where this goes from here, but it’s significant to have a public bid out there for Paramount Global.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.