EXCLUSIVE: Hat Trick Productions, the storied British production company behind Derry Girls and Have I Got News For You, is courting sale talks.
Co-founded by Jimmy Mulville in 1986, Hat Trick has been a bastion of truly independent UK producers but is now entertaining interest from groups including All3Media and Fremantle.
The company has not formally declared it is up for sale and has not engaged the services of an M&A broker, but Deadline hears that it has recently held promising conversations with potential suitors.
Mulville has toyed with the idea of selling in the past, most recently in 2018, when he compared the process to a real estate agent valuing a house. Four years on, sources said there had been a flurry of interest in Hat Trick amid the success of shows including bomb squad drama Trigger Point.
Three sources said that All3Media, the super producer owned by Warner Bros. Discovery and Liberty Global, has run the rule over Hat Trick. ITV Studios is also said to have taken a look.
Two people said Fremantle had examined a deal having been on a shopping spree in 2022. Buyers in the US and Europe have also expressed interest, according to two sources.
Hat Trick is thought to be emphasising its drama credentials, which sources said could be of particular interest to Fremantle. The RTL Group-owned producer has been bolstering its scripted presence after acquiring Normal People producer Element Pictures and Passenger, which made Sky’s This England.
Hat Trick owns 50% of HTM Television, a joint venture with Jed Mercurio, the creator of Line Of Duty. HTM had its best-ever year in 2021, making shows including Trigger Point and Bloodlands.
Trigger Point, starring Line of Duty‘s Vicky McClure, averaged 9.3M viewers in the UK, making it ITV’s highest-rated drama of 2022. It streamed on Peacock in the US.
Hat Trick holds a 25% stake in Plum Pictures, which is making a Serena Williams access documentary for Amazon. It owns 49% of Emporium Productions, which makes Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons, the long-running Netflix series. Livewire Pictures, the entertainment producer behind ABC’s Global Citizen Live, is half-owned by Hat Trick.
Hat Trick’s most recently published earnings showed that revenue increased nearly 60% to £43.7M ($54M) last year. The company’s profit stood at £1.9M in 2021, with sources saying that this will rise to more than £8M this year.
Mulville and co-founder Denise O’Donoghue, who is no longer involved with Hat Trick, have taken private equity backing in the past. They sold a 45% stake in the company for £23M to August Equity in 2003. Six years later Mulville bought the shareholding back and said private equity was “punitive” for a creative business because of the pressure to grow.
Hat Trick’s other hits include Episodes, the Golden Globe-winning BBC/Showtime series starring Matt LeBlanc, and Father Ted, Channel 4’s iconic Bafta-winning comedy. Derry Girls airs on Channel 4 in the UK and streams on Netflix internationally, while the topical comedy show Have I Got News For You has broadcast on the BBC since 1990.