Famed Comedy Outfit The Second City Acquired By Strauss Zelnick-Run Private Equity Firm ZMC

The Second City, the famed Chicago improv comedy outfit, has been acquired by private equity firm ZMC, whose founder and managing partner is longtime media figure Strauss Zelnick.

Financial terms for the deal were not disclosed. Houlihan-Lokey served as a financial advisor to Second City on the transaction. The M&A firm generally specializes in middle-market deals such as the sale of the XFL or Univision’s acquisition of Spanish-language streaming service Vix.

Second City, founded in 1959, gained fame from its theaters in Chicago, Toronto and Hollywood. Alumni of its stages, touring companies and theatrical productions include Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Keegan-Michael Key, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Gilda Radner and many more. Sketch comedy series Second City Television, its name shortened to SCTV, ran for years in Canada and also attracted a loyal audience on NBC in the U.S. Many products of Second City were also original cast members on Saturday Night Live.

The company has expanded its scope well beyond show business, forming partnerships with hundreds of major corporations involving thousands of students.

“We are very excited to partner with management and the incredible talent at The Second City to grow the brand and build a diverse organization that elevates all voices,” said Jordan Turkewitz, co-chief investment officer and managing partner at ZMC. “Over its sixty-year history, The Second City has been home to some of the most beloved names in comedy, and we plan on building the next generation of comedy talent by investing in people and creativity.”

Zelnick is chairman and CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software. His background includes a run as chairman and CEO of Columbia Music Entertainment. He also stepped in as interim chairman of CBS in 2018 and 2019.

ZMC has invested in companies like live events firm Logitix and Alloy, whose entertainment division controlled properties like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars.

“We are thrilled to work with ZMC as we continue to transform the company into an equitable and thriving environment while delivering world-class comedy to our audiences,” said Steve Johnston, president of The Second City. “I want to thank the talent, staff, alumni and audiences of The Second City for supporting us on our journey.”

Mayer Brown acted as legal advisor to The Second City. Sidley Austin LLP acted as legal advisor to ZMC.

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