December 23, 2010 / 6:20 PM / 7 years ago

Viacom sells developer of Rock Band video games

<p>A man plays "The Beatles: Rock Band" game during its launch in New York, September 9, 2009.Shannon Stapleton</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Viacom Inc has sold Harmonix Music Systems, the developer behind the Rock Band franchise, to the investment firm Columbus Nova and gained up to an estimated $200 million in the deal, ending a failed foray into the video game business.

Analysts have long questioned the value of Rock Band for a company known more for cable networks MTV and Nickelodeon and film studio Paramount Pictures. Viacom said in November it was putting Harmonix up for sale.

Harmonix-SBE Holdings LLC, an affiliate of investment firm Columbus Nova LLC, will pick up the asset, Viacom said in a statement on Thursday without disclosing terms of the sale.

"It's probably a small net positive, but it shouldn't be a major driver to the stock," said Alan Gould, an analyst with Evercore Partners.

The deal will likely contribute between $100 million and $200 million to Viacom, in large part from tax benefits and the buyer's assumption of liabilities such as write-downs on holiday sales, said Wedbush Securities analyst James Dix.

The Harmonix net loss to Viacom from discontinued operations for the nine months ended September 30 was $316 million, according to financial statements.

The company had high hopes for the launch of its "The Beatles" game in 2009, but Gould said that "didn't do anywhere near the kind of business they thought it was going to do."

Columbus Nova, which created Harmonix-SBE Holdings to hold the asset, is a multi-strategy investment firm managing over $10 billion of assets through its own funds and affiliated portfolio companies.

"Columbus Nova is really excited about backing the world-class team that has consistently produced such great games and helping them grow the company and its brands," a company spokesperson said in a statement.

Shares in Viacom were down 0.5 percent to $39.21 in mid-afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis, editing by Gerald E. McCormick

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