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Maker Studios Founder Danny Zappin Is Back in Business and Buying Companies. Here's His First Deal.

His Zealot Networks has bought the company behind AdRev, which helps music owners make money on YouTube.

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Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Last year Maker Studios CEO Danny Zappin was forced out of the company he co-founded.

He’s still not happy about it, even though he ended up clearing some $25 million when Maker sold to Disney this spring.

But now Zappin is trying to build a new business. Earlier this year he announced he is running Zealot Networks, which he says will become a portfolio of connected digital media companies.

And today Zappin is announcing Zealot’s first acquisition: It has bought a majority stake in AudioMicro, which itself owns multiple digital media companies.

AudioMicro’s best-known property is AdRev, a company that makes most of its money helping music owners track down YouTube clips that use their stuff without authorization and figure out how to make money from them. YouTube itself provides a “Content ID” tool to help rights owners find and claim videos that use their stuff, but most companies end up working with services like AdRev to do the actual work.

This is profoundly unsexy from the outside, but Zappin has spent enough time around YouTube to understand how important music is on the world’s biggest video site — and how much money you can make there.

While he won’t disclose a final purchase price or valuation for the deal, he says Zealot ended up spending more than $15 million to acquire its AudioMicro stake, so that should give you some sense of what he’s up to. (UPDATE: Zappin now says his investment was around $20 million.)

Zappin says he has other deals in the pipeline, and they will end up looking something like this one: He wants to buy working businesses that are generating real revenue, and hopefully a profit, and then have their existing management team keep running them. Then he’ll support them with his own set of managers.

Zappin, who is still pursuing a legal case against Maker even though that now means taking on Disney, says he has put more than half of his Maker payout into Zealot. That seems like an unusually big bet for a second-time entrepreneur to make out of the gate, but when I tell Zappin that he shrugs. “I’m in wealth creation mode, not wealth preservation mode.”

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