Digital Playground Taps Ackrell for Manwin Deal

SAN FRANCISCO — Manwin's recent acquisition of one of adult's top blue chip brands, Digital Playground, was a deal that involved high finance involving a little-known investment banking firm based in San Francisco.

Ackrell Capital — a boutique financial advisor that specializes in negotiation and business valuations for mainstream and adult, tech and media companies — represented Digital Playground exclusively in the blockbuster deal.

While Ackrell Capital is not the most familiar name in adult entertainment circles, one of the three partners of the firm is.

Ackrell partner and investment banker Ilan Bunimovitz, who structured the Manwin-Digital Playground deal, is the former Private Media Group CEO and newly christened Private board of director who challenged Private's former management in a shareholder takeover and won.

Prior to Private's acquisition of the online adult site, Bunimovitz was GameLink's co-founder and co-owner who started the company in 1993.

Bunimovitz told XBIZ on Wednesday that he couldn't comment on the terms of the Manwin-Digital Playground deal, including acquisition price, but said that the pairing of the companies made sense.

"Manwin is a smart, well-placed company that is making quite a few deals," he said. "These two companies make a good fit."

Bunimovitz said that negotiations between the companies had been going on for a while but wouldn't elaborate.

"In a general sense, these types of transactions from beginning to end take anywhere between 90 days to one year," he said.

On paper, the deal looks like a synergistic one, particularly since Digital Playground has produced and distributed more than 15 years of content and been a steady market leader, particularly with high-definition content.

The Canoga Park, Calif.-based studio specializes in full-length feature productions and exclusive contract stars. It also is a major supplier of content for hotel, IPTV, cable, pay-per-view and mobile networks worldwide.

The acquiring company, Luxembourg-based Manwin, runs Playboy sites as a licensee and claims to be the owner of the largest network of adult websites in the world, with more than 60 million daily visitors.

Manwin, which depends on portfolios after portfolios of adult content to feed its sites, operates a spectrum of brands and domains, including, among others, Brazzers, YouPorn and Twistys, as well as Spankwire, Webcams Tube8, ExtremeTube, KeezMovies, Mofos, ExtremeTube, JuicyBoys and PornHub.

In November, executives at both Manwin and Digital Playground teamed to wage an antitrust suit against .XXX operator ICM Registry and ICANN.

The suit, filed at U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, claims violations of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, as well as violations of two California statutes relative to unfair competition and practices over .XXX.