Home » Meet Byron Allen: The African-American media mogul seeking to buy a controlling interest in BET

Meet Byron Allen: The African-American media mogul seeking to buy a controlling interest in BET

by Omokolade Ajayi
Byron Allen

In the media industry, Byron Allen is a name that commands respect. With a career spanning more than four decades, the African-American businessman and leading media mogul has established himself as a formidable force to reckon with in the media industry.

From humble beginnings as a teenage comedian, Allen has gone on to become the founder and CEO of Allen Media Group, a media company with interests in television production, broadcasting, film production, and digital media. Now, he is looking to acquire a majority stake in BET Media Group, which has the potential to unlock significant value for the media asset that may not be feasible under its current corporate ownership.

Paramount executives believe that BET Media Group, which is the owner of BET, VH1, and the BET+ streaming service, may be particularly valued by a consortium of wealthy Black individuals and institutions. However, Allen is not the only one competing to acquire BET, a diversified business group that generated around $1.5 billion in revenue in 2022.

Tyler Perry, another African-American billionaire, and media mogul, is also in the running. Nevertheless, Allen’s experience in the media industry, coupled with his entrepreneurial spirit and drive, make him a strong contender.

Who is Byron Allen?

Born in Detroit in 1961, Allen moved to Los Angeles as a child, and it was there that he discovered his love for show business. At the age of 14, he put together his first stand-up routine and began appearing on amateur nights at comedy clubs throughout the Los Angeles area.

Soon, he was discovered by comedian Jimmie “JJ” Walker, who offered him a job as a writer.

Allen worked alongside David Letterman and Jay Leno, honing his craft and learning about the TV production industry.

At the age of 18, he became the youngest comedian to perform on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in 1979, where he gained valuable insights into the television production industry.

In 1993, he founded CF Entertainment, a non-fiction television production company, which initially faced challenges but evolved into Entertainment Studios and later Allen Media Group under his leadership.

Since then, Allen Media Group has rapidly expanded its portfolio, acquiring several entities, including film distributor Freestyle Releasing, TheGrio, The Weather Channel, an equity stake in Sinclair Broadcast Group’s acquisition of Fox Sports Networks, and broadcast television stations.

As a result, by October 2022, the group’s valuation had surged above $4.5 billion, prompting him to diversify into the sports industry.

In February 2022, he launched a bid to purchase the Denver Broncos of the National Football League but was ultimately outbid by S. Robson Walton’s group.

Undeterred, Allen continued to pursue his real estate acquisitions, purchasing a two-home compound in Beverly Hills, California, from Jeffrey Skoll for $22 million and acquiring a mansion in Malibu, California, previously owned by Tamara Gustavson for $100 million, making it the most expensive U.S. home purchase ever made by an African American.

What’s driving Byron Allen’s bid for a majority stake in BET?

Allen, who is now known for his commitment to diversity and inclusivity, is reportedly in talks to acquire a majority stake in BET Media Group.

The potential acquisition would add to his already impressive media empire, Entertainment Studios, which has interests in television production, broadcasting, film production, and digital media.

Given Allen’s strong advocacy for diversity and inclusivity in media, it’s no surprise that he’s interested in BET. As an African-American entrepreneur and media figure, Allen has long been committed to increasing the representation of people of color in the industry.

Should the acquisition be successful, it could represent a significant shift in media ownership and representation, and BET, a cultural touchstone for African-American audiences, could play an even greater role in shaping the future of media in the United States.

It is important to note that talks are still in the early stages, and there’s no guarantee that a deal will be reached. 

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