Shock sale of UK's largest Christian music company to Send The Light

IN A SHOCK move Britain's largest Christian music company, Word Entertainment Ltd (Word UK), has been sold to Send The Light (STL) Ltd. The Carlisle-based distribution company is the largest distributor of Christian products in Europe and operator of the Wesley Owen network of Christian retail outlets, the largest specialist Christian retailer in the United Kingdom. The company's stated mission is to "advance the Christian faith through retailing" by the provision of the best range of Bibles, books, music, software and video products. STL currently distributes Christian record labels Kingsway and ICC into British outlets and also co-publishes the advertorial Juice. The newly owned company will be known as Premier Music And Books and will continue to operate from its facility in Milton Keynes, England. The Premier name is taken from Word UK's consumer record sales club, Premier Music and Book Club.

The Nashville-based Word Entertainment, a unit of Gaylord Entertainment Company, announced the surprise move on 14th May. Word has signed a non-binding letter of intent to sell its UK subsidiary to STL. The two companies did not disclose financial details of the transaction. The transaction is subject to the completion of due diligence; the negotiation of definitive agreements for the sale and a five-year distribution agreement for Word products in the United Kingdom, Europe and South Africa; board and other stakeholder approvals; and other customary closing conditions. The two companies anticipate the sale to be completed by 1st September.

Plans for the transition call for Word UK's current managing director, Graham Williams, to continue to head the existing staff and have the new title of divisional managing director. Williams also will join the STL main board, reporting to STL group chief executive Keith Danby. Commenting on the deal, STL's Danby said, "I am delighted at securing this excellent company, which has a great reputation in the UK and Europe. Its product range will extend our reach into the marketplace and there will be great synergy between our two teams and products. The greatest area of growth for STL in recent years has been in its distribution of US-originated products and leading US-based music, book and Bible brands will be formidable additions to our stable. This acquisition will add great value to our operation and we feel very privileged to be entrusted with such valuable products."

"After meeting Keith Danby, it was obvious that the synergies STL has in place complement the operational demands of our UK business," said Mark Funderburg, president of Word Entertainment Distribution. "Graham Williams' years of experience will be a catalyst for the continued success of Word's products in the European markets as he leads STL's music initiatives. The reputation of these two leaders will ensure Word's strong position internationally with our music and video products." CR

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