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Japan’s Toho Acquires 25% Stake In Fifth Season; Korea’s CJ ENM Remains Majority Shareholder

Japanese studio Toho, producer of current box office hit Godzilla Minus One, is paying $225M to acquire a 25% stake in producer-distributor Fifth Season. The investment is being made through Toho’s U.S. subsidiary, Toho International.

Korea’s CJ ENM remains the majority shareholder in Fifth Season, following an acquisition of 80% of shares made last year, while Endeavor Group Holdings continues as a strategic shareholder. Following completion of the deal, Fifth Season will have a valuation of $900M.

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Fifth Season declined to comment when asked about the new share of the company’s shareholdings following the transaction. However, it is understood the deal results in a dilution for the current shareholders.

Fifth Season Co-CEOs Graham Taylor and Chris Rice said the investment would empower the company to continue expanding its slate of premium content, as well as create opportunities for collaboration between Fifth Season, Toho and CJ ENM.

More specifically, Fifth Season said it would work with Toho and CJ ENM to both produce global content and participate in content produced in Japan, while Toho’s development and production executives will team with Fifth Season. Content produced through these collaborations would benefit from Fifth Season’s robust global distribution network.

Fifth Season’s TV productions includes Apple TV+ series Severance, directed and produced by Ben Stiller, as well as Max’s Tokyo Vice, Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers, starring Nicole Kidman, and Hulu’s Life & Beth, starring Amy Schumer, with the latter three currently in production on their second season.

New series in production include Chief Of War starring Jason Momoa, Lady In The Lake, directed by Alma Har’el and starring Natalie Portman, and The Savant, starring Jessica Chastain. Fifth Season also handles distribution for a library of series produced by third party companies.

On the film side, Fifth Season currently has Eileen, directed by William Oldroyd and starring Thomasin McKenzie and Anne Hathaway, on release. Upcoming features include Nonnas, from director Stephen Chobsky, and Anniversary from writer-director Jan Komasa.

The company rebranded from Endeavor Content in September last year following the CJ takeover.

In addition to production, Toho is a major distributor in Japan of both local and foreign films, as well as an exhibitor with 740 screens and a 30% market share.

Taylor and Rice said: “This investment is an excellent and unique opportunity to build on Fifth Season’s momentum and solidify our leadership in the global independent film and television space. Strategic partnerships are a core piece of our DNA, and we were deliberate in moving forward with a company as successful, storied, and aligned with our goals and values as Toho. With their collaboration, alongside that of the great partnerships with CJ ENM and Endeavor, Fifth Season is positioned better than ever to delight audiences around the world with an expansive slate of top-quality content.”

Toho President Hiro Matsuoka said: “We believe that this collaboration will be a significant step towards challenging the global market, not only in the field of animation where Toho has excelled, but also in the realm of live-action content. We are extremely grateful and excited to take on this challenge hand in hand with CJ ENM, which has been advancing into the global entertainment market from Asia, and Endeavor, a global sports and entertainment company. Crossing the ‘bridge’ between Japan and the world that will be built through this collaboration, we hope to see Japanese projects, intellectual properties, and content expand further into the global market.”

Koo Chang-gun, CEO of CJ ENM, said: “We are thrilled to have Toho, the biggest entertainment company in Japan, as our partner at this time when Fifth Season is making significant strides as a global major studio. CJ ENM will continue to strengthen its competitive advantage as a content producer and bolster its status as a global IP powerhouse.”

Fifth Season was advised on the transaction by The Raine Group, which acted as exclusive financial advisor, and O’Melveny as legal advisor.

Jesse Whittock contributed to this story.

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