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Knobloch starts investment venture

Iris Knobloch has co-founded an investment company looking to raise up to €300m (US$353m) after stepping down as president of WarnerMedia in France, Benelux, Germany, Austria and Switzerland last month.

Iris Knobloch

Knobloch, who left WarnerMedia in July after 25 years at the company, will serve as chair of the board and CEO of I2PO.

Focusing on “entertainment and leisure,” the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) has been established as a newly incorporated public limited company registered in France. It is the first of its kind to be co-founded and led by a woman, according to the firm.

SPACs are investment vehicles that list on the stock market with the intention of finding a private company to merge with.

For example, France’s Mediawan launched on the stock market as a SPAC in 2016 before acquiring a raft of European TV companies.

I2PO is backed by Artemis – the holding company of France’s billionaire Pinault family, represented by François-Henri Pinault and Alban Greget – and Centerview Partners banker Matthieu Pigasse’s financial holding company Combat Holding.

The latter was a co-founder of Mediawan and 2MX Organic, the first and second SPACs ever launched in France.

I2PO is launching today with a €250m private placement – when a business sells corporate bonds or shares to investors without offering them for sale on the open market – which could grow to €300m.

Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan are acting as joint global coordinators and joint bookrunners of the offering, alongside Société Générale.

According to the backers, there are currently “considerable growth opportunities in Europe” in the areas of entertainment and leisure, driven by technological innovation that has been accelerated during the pandemic.

I2PO said it was targeting the acquisition of “an established brand which is well known in the entertainment and leisure sector, with a set of solid competitive advantages and an experienced management team fully committed to long-term value creation.”

It added that the combination of Knobloch’s international industry and operational expertise, Artemis’s ability to launch consumer brands and generate long-term value, and Combat Holding’s track record in SPACs and M&A would help it “build a European champion in the sector.”

Knobloch was responsible for WarnerMedia’s strategy across key parts of Europe. Her remit included content licensing, home entertainment and consumer products, as well as ad sales and affiliate distribution for WarnerMedia channels.

Knobloch was formerly president of Warner Bros Entertainment France and Benelux, a role she held from 2006.

Before that, she served as senior VP of Time Warner, in charge of international relations and strategic policy for Europe. Having originally joined the company in 1996, she also previously held several senior positions in Warner Bros offices in LA, London and Paris.

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