L.A. billionaire Haim Saban gives Fortune a peek of how he does business in a profile that gets into his support of Hillary Clinton ("I think he likes her better than he likes me," joked Bill Clinton) and how he went after L.A.-based Univision. Actually, he's been pursuing the Spanish-language media giant for the past three years.
Back then he went to see the press-shy Perenchio at his Bel Air, Calif., home to let him know of his interest in buying Perenchio's stake in Univision. (The two men aren't close but have common friends, such as CBS CEO Les Moonves.) According to Saban, Perenchio said his Univision holdings weren't for sale but encouraged him to call every month or so, "just to say hello." So Saban started checking in every two weeks. But he wasn't the only one interested in Univision: Wall Street had long thought Televisa, the Mexican television empire that helped Perenchio acquire Univision in 1992 and thus owned 11% of the company, would be a logical buyer. And indeed, Televisa, along with Bain Capital and Bill Gates' investing arm, Cascade, did put in a $12.2 billion offer for Univision, only to be outbid by Saban and his partners by about $170 million, or 50 cents a share. Just to show that there were hard feelings, the Televisa rep on the Univision board voted against Saban's offer.Univision is a revenue underperformer because the company hasn't yet convinced major advertisers that a Hispanic audience is worth going after. Saban also thinks that the company can charge more to cable and satellite operators - and he has a number in mind: a whopping $1 per subscriber per month. (CBS recently got some small operators to pay about 50 cents per viewer per month).
As it turns out, Saban is already trying to make nice with Televisa. For starters, he has an existing relationship with the Mexican broadcaster, which aired his kids' programs in the 1990s. He also speaks Spanish. But mostly Saban brings to the table what business school professors might blandly call "people skills," though in Saban's hands the delivery is anything but bland. During a visit to Televisa before the deal closed, for example, Saban and associate Adam Chesnoff toured a school the company runs for teaching the art of producing telenovelas. The two men watched a taping, and between scenes Saban danced on the set with a dozen actresses. Talk about breaking the ice.