WatchMojo hires CIBC to explore sale
Canadian digital media company WatchMojo has hired Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO) to explore options for its business including a possible sale, BNN Bloomberg has learned.
“Every week, I get bankers calling me with ideas,” WatchMojo co-founder and CEO Ashkan (Ash) Karbasfrooshan said in a phone interview. “Those conversations are eating up 20 to 30 per cent of my time. I realized I should give someone the mandate so I can focus on everything else.”
Based in Montreal, WatchMojo runs one of the world's most popular YouTube channels. It has amassed more than 20 million subscribers, with crowd pleasing Top 10 lists tied to pop culture. Along with its namesake YouTube brand, it has a total of 30 channels focused on subjects such as gaming, children’s content, travel, science and entrepreneurship.
In the past decade, the company has grown to roughly 70 full-time employees, along with dozens of part-time and freelance video editors, researchers and scriptwriters. Beyond Montreal, WatchMojo has staff in New York, Los Angeles and London, while its partners and sponsors include the U.S. Army, Netflix Inc., and Universal Pictures.
CIBC’s investment bankers have been involved with a range of recent media deals, including working with Rogers Communications Inc. on the sale of certain Rogers Media assets.
Karbasfrooshan says WatchMojo has held talks with dozens of interest parties over the years, including traditional media companies and private equity firms. Some of those discussions nearly led to deals, but the company has chosen to stay independent so far.
“I don’t want to sell, disappear and start another business. I like the industry and our team. I would love to keep growing it,” Karbasfrooshan said.
While his preference is to sell a stake in the business instead of selling the business outright, he says he’s open to all possibilities.
WatchMojo reaches 114 million people on YouTube each month and has generated more than 15 billion YouTube views through all of its channels. Its video content is also distributed on social platforms such as Snapchat and Facebook Inc.
Meanwhile, the business is expanding, with an increased focus on documentaries, events, an over-the-top (OTT) streaming effort MojoTV, as well as a record label, SoundMojo.
“These all require resources, manpower and energy. There are companies that have the legal and technical resources we need.”
Karbasfrooshan and WatchMojo’s four other co-founders remain at the company, 13 years after launch.
Prior to starting the digital media firm, Karbasfrooshan worked for AskMen.com, which was acquired by IGN in 2005. WatchMojo was seeded with savings, and then bootstrapped.
“I did have a couple hundred thousand dollars after AskMen, which lasted us a year. Then we ran out of money. Traditional credit cards and credit lines and not paying myself for six years kept us afloat until the business became profitable,” Karbasfrooshan said.
WatchMojo, which reached profitability in 2012 and has no debt, is unique in a landscape where venture capital money is readily available: It has no outside investors. While it has an advisory board with established industry players, the company does not have a formal board of directors, which can often speed up the timetable on merger and acquisition deals.
“Investors usually want their money out in five or seven years. I don’t have fatigued investors who want to move on to something else, so I’ve never had that pressure to sell.”