Private Equity Firm Abry Partners Takes Minority Investment as the Newly Formed Company Accelerates IP Creation, Grows Existing Brands, Expands Team and Talent Partnerships
Leadership Team Set with Thai Randolph as CEO, Bryan Smiley as Chief Content Officer, and Jeff Clanagan as Chief Distribution Officer
LOS ANGELES , April 26, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Trailblazing entrepreneur, executive and entertainer Kevin Hart Announces today the formation of HARTBEAT, a global, multi-platform media company creating entertainment at the intersection of comedy and culture with a mission to keep the world laughing together. After more than a decade of leveraging his individual success to build two high-growth, profitable companies – Laugh Out Loud and HartBeat Productions – Hart has now combined these entities to create the #1 source of comedic storytelling and experiences with HARTBEAT. The next generation media company units Hartbeat Productions’ best-in-class TV & film production capabilities with Laugh Out Loud’s expansive distribution network, along with its marketing, sales, experience, branded content, digital and social capabilities.
HARTBEAT launches with a $100M investment from private equity firm Abry Partners, which took a minority investment in the new company. As part of the deal, Abry Partners partner Nicolas Massard will be joining the HARTBEAT board. Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service, which signed a multi-year, first look deal and took an equity stake in Laugh Out Loud in 2020, will remain a shareholder.
With the funding, HARTBEAT plans to expand its team, accelerate growth for existing brands and franchises, create new IP that connects with global audiences, and leverage HARTBEAT’s creative engine, relationships, and resources to collaborate with today’s most prominent stars and rising comedic talent talent Both in front of and behind the camera.
The existing leadership team from Hartbeat Productions and Laugh Out Loud will continue to oversee day-to-day operations. Hart will act as Chairman and Thai Randolph, who led the capital raise and held positions as President & COO of Laugh Out Loud and COO of Hartbeat Productions, has been elevated to lead the new entity as CEO. Hartbeat Productions’ Bryan Smiley will move to President & Chief Content Officer, with LOL’s Jeff Clanagan becoming President & Chief Distribution Officer. HartBeat Productions co-founder Leland Wigington will move to lead a new production banner under HARTBEAT.
“The creation of HARTBEAT and our capital raise with Abry representing a new era in comedy. This all started out with a mission to keep the world laughing proud together and I’m so our teams have delivered on that, putting in the hard work to build the most innovative and inclusive comedic storytelling company,” says Hart. “In an industry that loves to say no and close doors, I’ve been bullish about forging our own path and using our success to open doors for others. With this merger and funding, we’re taking the new blueprint we’ve built in entertainment to the next level and creating opportunities for a new generation of comedic talent.
“We’ve scaled our business in an ever changing media landscape by delivering comedy to audiences wherever and whenever they want to laugh, and have demonstrated an unmatched ability to generate sales, subscriptions and eyeballs for some of the top entertainment and brand partners in the world, while driving cultural currency and conversation among some of the most coveted audiences,” says CEO Thai Randolph. “At HARTBEAT, we’re building an end-to-end entertainment enterprise that creates, markets and distributes the most culturally relevant IP and experiences in comedy and beyond. The merger and capital raise help us further scale and invest in the future of comedic entertainment, creating more high demand content and experiences at the intersection of comedy and culture.”
HARTBEAT operates under three divisions:
- HARTBEAT Studios, led by Bryan Smileyfinances, develops and produces film, TV, content at the intersection of comedy and culture
- HARTBEAT Media, led by Jeff Clanaganconnects with consumers around the world through events, gaming, music publishing, Web3 initiatives, and an expansive distribution network
- PULSE, the company’s branded entertainment studio, serves as a creative and cultural consultancy to brands such as P&G, Lyft, Sam’s Club, Chase and Verizon.
Operating under HARTBEAT Media, the LOL! Network will continue to be the company’s flagship consumer brand, reaching audiences across its O&O social media, audio (SiriusXM) and OTT partners (Peacock, Roku, Tubi, PlutoTV, Vizio, Redbox, Xumo, and more). In an April 2021 Conviva report that ranked the size of social media audiences across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube, the LOL! Network was touted as one of the top 10 media publishers – coming in ahead of major players like Hulu.
As a valuable partner to the biggest entertainment companies, platforms, and brands in the world, the company’s global impact can be felt across streaming, digital audio, branded content, and at the box office, including the #1 streaming debuts on Netflix (Fatherhood and True Story); #1 box office launch (Night School); #1 show on Roku (Die Hart); #1 podcast on Sirius/Pandora (Comedy Gold Minds); #1 branded content debut with Lyft (Lyft Legends); #1 digital sports talk show (Cold as Balls); Peacock’s viral hit Olympic Highlightsas well as the popular Hart-hosted talk show Hart to Hart on Peacock.
HARTBEAT creates hit vehicles for A-list comedians and brings the next generation of comedic voices into the mainstream, with projects that include producing the #1 comedy series on FX, Dave; Comedy in Colorthe global standup franchise featuring 300 comedians across 30 countries (Simon & Schuster, LOL! Network, Just for Laughs Festival); Amanda Seales’ Smart, Funny & Black Radio on Laugh Out Loud Radio on SiriusXM; Meditate with Me with Tiffany Haddish, Hasan Minhaj, Amanda Seales, Deon Cole (Headspace); Mirror II Society, Affion Crockett’s first stand up special (LOL! Network); the Women Write Now black women in film writers program, in partnership with Sundance; comedy legend DL Hughley’s talk show, DL Hughley: Uncut (LOL! Network on Pluto); One and Only Dick Gregory documentary with Showtime; and producing and marketing experiences including Nick Cannon’s Wild ‘N Out tour and Shaq Comedy All Star Jam, among other projects.
HARTBEAT is currently in various stages of development or production on more than sixty projects across 15+ entertainment partners. The company also boasts several strategic multi-year partnerships including an unscripted first look deal with NBCU’s Peacock, a film deal with Netflix, a partnership with SiriusXM, and a deal with Audible in partnership with Charlamagne Tha God via the joint venture SBH Productions.
Upcoming projects include Me Time (Netflix) with Mark Wahlberg and Regina Hall, “Storytown” (HBO Max), the F. Gary Gray action heist Lift (Netflix), #1 on the Call Sheet documentary (Apple TV+), “Die Hart” season 2 (Roku), “So Dumb It’s Criminal” with Snoop Dogg (Peacock), and a new season of the Hart-led sports talk show “Cold as Balls” (LOL Network).
HARTBEAT was advised in the transaction by Evolution Media Capital and a team at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP led by Sophia Yena partner in the Entertainment Group.
Founded by Kevin Hart, HARTBEAT is the global, multi-platform media company creating entertainment at the intersection of comedy and culture with a mission to keep the world laughing together. HARTBEAT delivers comedy through its three divisions: HARTBEAT Studios, which finances, develops and produces innovative content; HARTBEAT Media, which connects with consumers around the world through events and the company’s expansive distribution network; and PULSE, the company’s branded entertainment studio that serves as a creative and cultural consultancy to the brand. HARTBEAT’s flagship consumer brand, the LOL! Network, reaches audiences across its O&O social media, audio, and OTT partners.
Led by an award-winning team, HARTBEAT is a valuable partner to the biggest entertainment companies, platforms and brands in the world, driving cultural currency and generating sales, subscriptions, buzz, and conversation with some of the most coveted audiences.
About Abri Partners
Abry is one of the most experienced and successful sector-focused private equity investment firms in North America. Since its founding in 1989, the firm has completed over $90 billion of leveraged transactions and other private equity or preferred equity placements. Currently, the firm manages over $5 billion of capital across its active funds. For more information on Abry, please visit www.abry.com