Bristol-based Plimsoll Productions sold to ITV for £131M

Plimsoll Productions Tiny World

Leading mid-market private equity firm LDC has exited its investment in Plimsoll Productions to ITV in a transaction that values the independent television production company at £131m.

Plimsoll’s BAFTA, EMMY and Academy award winning team specialises in wildlife, documentary and factual entertainment shows, and is the biggest independent producer of natural history programmes in the world. Headquartered in Bristol, with offices in LA and Cardiff, the business has produced more than 70 series for broadcasters including Netflix, Disney, Apple and Natural Geographic.

LDC backed Plimsoll’s management team, led by CEO Grant Mansfield, in 2019, with a minority investment that valued the company at around £80m. Since then, the business has grown sales from £35m (FY19) to £50m, with an EBITDA of £10m (FY21).

With LDC’s support, Plimsoll has invested in its natural history and documentary programming, launched a factual drama division and pursued further growth, both organically and through acquisition. In September 2020, it acquired specialist distribution and rights management company, Magnify Media, which now distributes to 75 countries worldwide through its network. The business also appointed US entertainment industry veteran Mark Itkin, who joined Plimsoll’s board to advise on strategy.

Plimsoll attracted its highest audiences to date during the three-year partnership – with standout productions including Apple TV+ documentary series Tiny Worldand Channel 4’s Handmade: Britain’s Best Woodworker and used innovative strategies to extend the global reach of its content. In 2021, Plimsoll embarked on its first co-production series with ITV – the upcoming Stephen Fry-narrated documentary A Year on Planet Earth – which involved forming commercial partnerships with international broadcasters, including Tencent in China and Fox Nation in the USA.

Plimsoll will remain an independent brand following the transaction. The company’s existing management and creative teams will continue to run the business and play a key role in programme development to maintain Plimsoll’s creative pipeline.

The transaction will help Plimsoll to continue to expand its premium factual offering, while supporting ITV’s strategy to grow its international content business, ITV Studios. The broadcaster plans to leverage Plimsoll’s strong relationships with global streaming services and take advantage of increasing demand for natural history and factual programming.

Grant Mansfield, CEO and Founder of Plimsoll Productions, said: “The last few years have been an exceptional time for our business. We’ve achieved record growth and continued to thrill audiences with powerful stories that celebrate the world we live in.

“We have really valued our partnership with LDC. The team has supported and empowered us to achieve our ambitions on our own terms, with creativity, inclusivity and the pursuit of excellence at the core of everything we do. We’re now excited to build on our successes with ITV.”

Dewi Hughes, Partner and Head of LDC in the South West and Wales, added: “Plimsoll has become a global standard bearer for British natural history and premium factual filmmaking and has established a pre-eminent position in its genres at an international level. It has used award-winning creativity to tap into a surge in demand for content and is now perfectly positioned to continue its impressive growth journey with one of the UK’s biggest broadcasters. We have enjoyed supporting Grant and his team on their remarkable achievements and wish them all the very best.”

LDC and Plimsoll Productions were advised on this transaction by Houlihan Lokey (financial advisory), Osborne Clarke (legal), PWC (financial due diligence), CIL (commercial due diligence) and Deloitte (tax structuring).