Yoshimoto Kogyo Going Private

Japan’s biggest comedy talent agency, Osaka-based Yoshimoto Kogyo, announced on Sept. 11 that it would go private in a buyout by an investment fund made up of broadcasters and other companies.

The purpose of the move is to facilitate its ambitions in the rest of Asia.

The investment consortium of 13 companies is called Quantum Entertainment, and it will make tender offers for Yoshimoto shares at a price of ¥1,350 ($15) each until Oct. 29.

Except for those owned by Yoshimoto itself, the consortium plans to buy up 70 percent of the agency’s outstanding shares.

Among the companies participating in Quantum, which is headed by former Sony Corp. chairman Nobuyuki Idei, are advertising powerhouse Dentsu Inc., Internet company Softbank Corp., search engine Yahoo Japan Corp. and five television networks.

Yoshimoto director Shigeki Fujiwara said during a news conference that his company will work with the new consortium to “expand our activities across borders.”

In the last fiscal year, Yoshimoto posted its first profit drop in five years, a situation that it mainly blames on flat sales of comedians to TV productions, which is its main source of revenue. Producers have been cutting costs due to loss of advertising revenues.

According to media reports, Yoshimoto wanted to announce the consortium deal last spring, but the company’s banks and creditors were initially opposed because they felt that Yoshimoto’s over-reliance on a small group of very popular comedians made the move too risky. Apparently, a number of major companies who were invited to join the consortium, like cell phone provider KDDI, declined, saying that the “prospects” for the venture were not clear enough.

All the major commercial TV networks are taking part because they all heavily depend on Yoshimoto’s pool of talent.