EXCLUSIVE: It took two decades, but it’s finally getting off the ground thanks to billionaires Ron Burkle and Steve Bing, Windsor Media’s Terry Semel, Arnon Milchan’s New Regency and James Packer’s and Brett Ratner’s RatPac Entertainment. The heavies have come together to finance Warren Beatty’s long-gestating Howard Hughes-based project. The roughly $26.7M production, which Beatty will direct and star in as Hughes, will revolve around Hughes’ assistant (Alden Ehrenreich, Beautiful Creatures) and his love interest (Lily Collins, Mirror, Mirror). New Regency, Beatty and Ratner are producing, with Packer executive producing. Regency will handle foreign through Fox. They’ve already shot a small amount of film on the picture, but it starts rolling in earnest today. Beatty’s wife Annette Bening and Matthew Broderick and other surprises are expected (a la Jack Nicholson, maybe? One can only hope). The focus of the film is the love story of the two younger characters.
Warren Beatty’s Untitled Howard Hughes Pic Finally Takes Flight Financed By Billionaire Boys’ Club; Ehrenreich, Collins To Star In Love Story; Bening And Broderick Also In
WME Partner Ken Slotnick Departs To Start Management/Production Company Backed By Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies
EXCLUSIVE: Financier Ron Burkle‘s global investment firm The Yucaipa Companies is expanding its entertainment portfolio with another move in the representation area. WME partner Ken Slotnick is leaving the agency to start a management/production company backed by Yucaipa. It is the second major move by Yucaipa in the last couple of weeks, following the launch of UK-based production company SID Gentle Films, headed by Sally Woodward Gentle, which will be focused on scripted drama, TV movies and miniseries as well as indie features. Based in New York, Slotnick was part of WME’s branded lifestyle group and worked in the non-scripted area, with The Talk/Big Brother host Julie Chen among his clients. He came from the William Morris side where he was an agent for a decade before the 2009 merger with Endeavor and was named a WME partner in January 2012.
Burkle has been ramping up his entertainment portfolio, recently joining with former top Conde Nast and Prometheus Global Media executive Richard Beckman to start New York-based Three Lions Entertainment. Two years ago, the supermarket mogul and philanthropic businessman bought most of Elliot Capitol Management’s stake in Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media for what is believed to have been $800M. He also helped to launch Current TV started by former VP Al Gore, and also financed movies for Harvey and Bob Weinstein. Last year, Burkle bought one of the leading live entertainment agencies, Artist Group International, which books musicians, comedians and sporting events around the globe, and Yucaipa and Relativity Media launched Relativity Sports to represent athletes, coaches and broadcasters.
Sally Woodward Gentle was most recently creative director at Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films. Now striking out on her own, the exec has launched production company SID Gentle Films with financial backing from Ron Burkle‘s global investment firm The Yucaipa Companies. SID Gentle is eyeing scripted drama, TV movies and miniseries as well as indie features. The company is already in development on a Neal Purvis/Robert Wade-penned project for the BBC, and a supernatural thriller from Ben Court and Caroline Ip, also for the BBC. Former Carnival exec Henrietta Colvin is also joining SID Gentle Films as head of development. Lee Morris, who’s currently producing Da Vinci’s Demons, will come aboard as managing director in the New Year. Woodward Gentle’s producing credits include Channel 4′s BAFTA award-winning Any Human Heart, ITV drama series Whitechapel and Helena Bonham Carter drama Enid. She is also exec producing Carnival’s upcoming romancer The 7.39 starring David Morrissey, Sheridan Smith and Olivia Coleman.
Ron Burkle remains a mystery to Hollywood. The supermarket tycoon turned private equity funds manager has sat down with The New Yorker‘s Connie Bruck for a not-very-flattering long profile. It makes clear he has no over-arching strategy for his entertainment investments at present – except to avoid bidding wars. (“Burkle seemed to feel that as long as he was approaching movies as a hobby he could enjoy the dividend of glamour without violating his proscription against the business.”) But there is intel about his financial dealings with Harvey Weinstein and Ryan Kavanaugh. (“Burkle said that he particularly likes investing in people who have encountered adversity, because he believes they often come back stronger.”) For instance, the article says Burkle received all of Relativity as collateral for his most recent investment of a “couple of hundred of millions of dollars” – and that Burkle, not Kavanaugh, is now calling the shots at Relativity. It also speculates in the future Kavanaugh goes out and Weinstein comes in:
In the past seven years, Kavanaugh has proved adept at structuring deals where investors have done poorly while he and Relativity prospered. And last winter, when Kavanaugh’s luck finally seemed to have run out, Burkle rescued his company … Relativity’s first big-budget epic, “Immortals,” was set to open in early November, and, less than two weeks beforehand, Elliott reportedly threatened to reduce its investment unless Kavanaugh agreed to dramatic concessions. At this moment, Burkle appeared,
UPDATE: Duncan Heath responds to what I wrote: “So I guess you don’t like me. That’s OK. On a personal level, one probably has to bite the bullet — that’s just life. But I cannot keep quiet when it involves Independent Talent and its finances. The company did not need a ‘financial rescuer’ and never has. The finances of the company are incredibly robust. As our press release clearly states, we want to expand the business, and Yucaipa and Ron Burkle are going to help us do just that.”
PREVIOUS: I’d heard a few months ago that London tenpercenter Duncan Heath and investor Ron Burkle were talking. But when it comes to the agent, that’s all he ever does is talk, talk, talk. He’s been looking for a financial rescuer for his Independent Talent Group (aka Independent Talent Agency, formerly ICM-UK) for seemingly forever — something Heath’s own statement accompanying today’s news readily admits. Frankly, I washed my hands of Heath a long time ago after he flunked my truthfulness test. So now he and Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies have consummated a deal. Exactly how Burkle is picking his showbiz partners remains a real mystery to me and others. Ryan Kavanaugh? Duncan Heath? Who’s next — James Robinson? Elie Samaha? David Bergstein?
(West Hollywood, California) January 23, 2012 – Yucaipa Companies, a premier investment firm owned and run by Ron Burkle, today announced that it has purchased a significant equity stake in Relativity Media, a full-fledged film distribution company, television production company, sports agency, Internet and interactive media company. Yucapia’s equity investment follows the successful close of debt financings led by Colbeck Capital, a strategic lender run by Jason Colodne and Jason Beckman, and funded by Burkle.
This investment comes on the heels of the studio’s first year as a full-fledged distribution company. During the past 12 months, the studio has had unprecedented success with two number one opening films; marking Relativity as the only mini-major to achieve such a milestone. It is one of the few mini-majors to have had two films exceed 30 million dollars in domestic box office in their opening weekend.
Over the past year the studio has enjoyed the success of films such as Limitless, The Fighter and most recently Immortals, which has just broken $230 million in worldwide box office receipts, the highest R-rated action opening weekend in 2011, and the third highest opening weekend for 2011 R-rated films.
Bloomberg is reporting that billionaire Ron Burkle has agreed to buy Elliott Management Corp’s minority stake in Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media, citing two people with knowledge of the situation. ”The sale price was in the hundreds of millions of dollars, said one person, who declined to be identified because the deal hasn’t been announced. No comment from either Elliott Management or Relativity. Deadline has its own story in the works.
The billionaire investment banker shows a growing interest in the music biz: He just picked up one of the industry’s top concert-booking firms with clients including Billy Joel, Metallica, and Rod Stewart. “The live experience cannot be digitized or replicated and thrives in the face of the profound changes that have affected other facets of the music business,” says Rick Stevens, who runs Burkle’s Y Entertainment Group. No details on how much Burkle paid for Artist Group International – which will continue to be run by Dennis Arfa, who founded the company 25 years ago. But it’s always worth following the banker’s moves: He’s a member of the Yahoo board and a major investor in Alliance Entertainment and Barnes & Noble. Here’s the release:
Cannes: Weinstein Company Acquires Rights To ‘The Iron Lady,’ With Meryl Streep As Margaret Thatcher
EXCLUSIVE: Another day on the Croisette brings another major distribution deal. After an all-night auction, The Weinstein Company emerged with U.S. distribution rights to The Iron Lady, the Pathe pic that stars Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher. I’m told the deal was worth near $7 million and that Weinstein Company made it with Ron Burkle and his Yucaipa banner. I’m also told that Alliance will distribute in Canada. I’d heard last night that the likes of Summit, Relativity Media and Fox Searchlight chased it. There were at least two bids on the table at $6 million.
Numerous bidders were in on the action after Pathe showed five minutes of footage here. Harvey Weinstein will definitely open the film during Oscar season, relying on another British politics tale after The King’s Speech won Best Picture honors last year. Weinstein, his lieutenant David Glasser and Burkle worked into the night to make the deal. It is the same partnership structure they employed when that made the Sundance acquisitions My Idiot Brother and The Details. For TWC, it has already been a busy fest. They acquired world rights to Paul Thomas Anderson’s next film before the fest started, made a quick acquisition of the black-and-white silent film The Artist, and they bought the Chinese film Dragon, both official festival selections.
Streep reunites with her Mamma Mia! director Phyllida Lloyd in the Abi Morgan-scripted film that also stars Harry Lloyd, Richard E. Grant and Jim Broadbent.
The Weinstein Company has released a new trailer on Our Idiot Brother, the picture that Harvey Weinstein acquired at Sundance in a vigorous bidding battle. TWC teamed with Ron Burkle to pay between $6 million-$7 million, and a P&A commitment of $15 million in one of the bigger deals of the festival. The comedy, which stars Paul Rudd as the title character, will be released Aug. 26.
Dealmakers who came into Park City hoping to recapture the acquisitions momentum of last fall’s Toronto Film Festival returned this week with smiles on their faces. And why not? By my count, 38 transactions have been completed on Sundance films so far, with several more coming. Buyers estimate that at least eight of those deals brought a minimum guarantee of $2 million or higher: The Details and My Idiot Brother to The Weinstein Company, Like Crazy to Paramount/Indian Paintbrush, Margin Call to Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions, Another Earth to Fox Searchlight, Silent House to Liddell Entertainment, Homework to Fox Searchlight, and The Devil’s Double to Lionsgate and Herrick Entertainment.
Nobody could be accused of the drunken spending that occasionally happened in past Sundance Festivals. But considering the shellacking the indie business has taken over the past several years, there were intriguing team-ups and bold plays all over the place. Like when Sony Pictures Classics acquired the Michael Shannon-in-meltdown-mode Take Shelter, sight unseen, and the SPC team strutted when the film played to glowing reviews; when Steven Rales’ Indian Paintbrush became the surprise catalyst in the $4 million deal to acquire festival favorite Like Crazy, or when Ron Burkle partnered with Harvey Weinstein in the $7.5 million guarantee/$10 million P&A acquisition of the Tobey Maguire black comedy The Details; when Focus Features bought Dee Rees’s much discussed directing debut Pariah, and made her next …
UPDATE: The Weinstein Company indeed closed this deal, and here are the details. I’m told the minimum guarantee was $7.5 million, with a P&A commitment upwards of $10 million. That makes The Details the largest minimum guarantee of the festival so far, though TWC’s deal for My Idiot Brother (between $6 million-$7 million m.g.) had a larger P&A commitment, around $15 million. Summit’s bid for domestic rights was between $4 million and $5 million. TWC’s acquisition team of Peter Lawson, Laine Kline and David Glasser made the deal with CAA and UTA, which co-repped the picture.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 6:48 PM: A marathon bargaining session is near a close, and it appears The Weinstein Company will acquire worldwide distribution rights to The Details, the Jacob Aaron Estes-directed dark comedy that stars Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Laura Linney, Ray Liotta, Dennis Haysbert and Kerry Washington. TWC and Summit Entertainment have been battling vigorously all night, and I’m told this could end up the Sundance Film Festival’s largest deal. The film, repped by CAA and UTA, began attracting suitors right after its Monday premiere at Eccles Theater. It quickly got down to TWC and Summit Entertainment, the latter of which has focused on acquiring domestic distribution rights.
Leo Wolinsky was brought in after several rounds of layoffs at the trade, and now he was pushed out after less than a year in the job. Before coming to Variety, Wolinsky had spent many years in senior level roles at the Los Angeles Times. But, as I wrote back on December 8th, why in the world would that newspaper’s errand boy be named editor of Daily Variety (both the LA and NY editions) because the guy knew nothing about the entertainment biz. I registered surprise at what a bad choice this is. He was long considered a joke at the LA Times and infamous for secretly helping wrangle billionaire potential local backers like Eli Broad, Ron Burkle, Richard Riordan, and David Geffen when then bigwig editors were fighting with Tribune Co. (Finke/LA Weekly: Baquet’s Billionaire Boys Club). He briefly sat atop the LA Times‘ entertainment and feature sections as a seat-filler until he was let go. Nevertheless, Wolinsky was made responsible for all Variety editorial content for the print edition and began January 2010 reporting to Variety Group editor Tim Gray. Meanwhile, Variety is sending out for an LA Press Club panel about the trades some junior box office reporter who was an intern until recently. Also an article in the Los Angeles Times about show business news coverage barely even mentioned Variety which is now behind a pay wall. Out of sight, out of mind?
While Michael Ovitz’s name keeps coming up repeatedly in the ongoing Pellicano trial (though he’s charged with no wrongdoing), he’s also been the subject of an ongoing multimillion dollar lawsuit brought by his one-time Internet partner, billionaire investor Ron Burkle. But yesterday Ovitz scored a big victory when that lawsuit by Burkle alleging that the co-founder of CAA and fired Walt Disney Co. president broke a business agreement was dismissed yesterday by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Soussan Bruguera. She decided that the men never had a formal partnership and, if anything, had more of a “friendship that soured” than a business relationship, and that terms of their oral agreement were too vague to enforce. Burkle’s attorney said he will appeal Bruguera’s decision to grant Ovitz’s motion. Meanwhile, Ovitz’s counter-suit against Burkle is still on, and a trial date has been set for April 28. Nevertheless, Burkle managed through the long and winding lawsuit to muddy Ovitz’s reputation, already tarnished by his many business failures. Burkle filed the complaint back in February 2005, claiming the two made a verbal agreement in the 1990s to jointly combine “their skill, money and knowledge” on investments but alleging that Ovitz breached their oral pact repeatedly. There’s now a long list of Ovitz’s former business partners from Hollywood, Broadway, Wall Street, Madison Avenue and sports (to name just a few areas) who despise him now.