US private equity firm Vector Capital is to acquire a 30% stake in France’s Technicolor. At a shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday, a vote was passed to accept Vector’s 191M euro cash bid. The deal comes amid a lawsuit lodged against the post-production and digital media specialist by its former partner, Tarak Ben Ammar and his Quinta Communications. Although Technicolor lost 324M euros last year, The Financial Times notes the company was a draw for private equity firms eager to access its patent portfolio that includes phone, TV and tablet technology. More details follow: Read More »
Upheaval in the French post-production sector that hit at the end of last year has spread to the courts, with media mogul Tarak Ben Ammar suing former partner Technicolor. As part of the suit, bailiffs turned up at Technicolor’s headquarters just outside Paris on Friday to search computers for evidence corroborating Ben Ammar’s claims. Ben Ammar’s Quinta Communications and Technicolor were partnered in Quinta Industries, which essentially owned the entire French post-production sector — including Duran Duboi, Scanlab, SIS and LTC — since 2006. When economic problems hit Quinta Industries, forcing a liquidation in December of last year, Technicolor picked up some of its assets. Ben Ammar alleges that Technicolor allowed Quinta to fail in order to acquire those companies at a bargain basement price — a Quinta rep puts it at less than 1M euros as opposed to the 30M euros they were worth.
According to Quinta, the contract with Technicolor, which owned 17.5% of Quinta Industries, included an option to buy the entire company. It also stipulated that Ben Ammar could not enter into business with Technicolor rival Deluxe. But as Quinta began to encouter difficulties, Technicolor did not provide backing, despite a signed letter from the Ministry of Industry asking Technicolor and Quinta Communications to invest and help save the post outfits. Quinta also contends that the Deluxe clause prohibited Ben Ammar from turning to them as a recourse. Amid the crisis, Technicolor and Deluxe last July announced a strategic agreement under which Technicolor would subcontract its 35mm bulk release printing business to Deluxe in North America and Deluxe would subcontract its 35mm print distribution business in the U.S. to Technicolor. Read More »
With a large portion of Paris’ post-production facilities facing liquidation, French film body the CNC today expanded a task force to help stem potential losses. The difficulties at Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Industries, which notably includes lab LTC and visual effects specialist Duran Duboi, have led some producers and distributors to fear for projects they have underway at the companies. I reported last week that copies of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo had recently been held hostage at LTC when workers protested the liquidation. This week, technical industry lobby group FICAM laid out a list of 36 films whose future it said was endangered by the financial turmoil. The org feared creditors would seize servers at Quinta’s labs, resulting in the loss of film sequences and millions of euros worth of work. FICAM’s report included Fidélité’s big budget Asterix And Obelix 3D: God Save Britannia whose effects were being handled by Duran Duboi. But ahead of the crisis meeting, producer Marc Missonnier told me the film was not at risk. “We have a copy of all of the rushes,” he said adding that the extra costs incurred will be “absorbable.” Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval, who is handling sales on Asterix, played down the issue when I spoke with him. The flurry of French press and TV reports claiming the film could be in trouble “gave me like 700,000 euros worth of free publicity,” he said. Maraval also confirmed The Artist star Jean … Read More »
While the growing unrest in Egypt is playing out before us, the recent overthrow of the government of Tunisia is on its way to becoming a feature film. Tarak Ben Ammar will finance and produce a feature about Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian who set himself ablaze to protest unemployment and lack of freedom. His self-sacrfice set off a historic chain of events that led to the Jasmin Revolution and the overthrow of president Zein El-Abedin Ben Ali. Ben Ammar, a nephew of Tunisia’s first independent president Habib Bourguiba, was in Tunisia during the recent revolution because he was there completing production on the Jean-Jacques Annaud-directed Black Gold, the $55 million film which is one of the most expensive films backed by an Arab about an Arab subject. Aside from his film company Quinta Communications, Ben Ammar’s Nessma TV was the first media outlet to break the taboo on freedom of expression when it reported on the demonstrations December 30. Messma executives were threatened with jail. “Mohamed Bouazizi has become a hero for us as Tunisians and the Arab world as a whole,” Ben Ammar said in a statement. “He performed the ultimate self-sacrifice and in doing so he opened up the eyes and heart of a nation to the injustice all around them. He did it by sacrificing himself, not by hurting anyone else.”
Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Communications has brought the Doha Film Institute aboard as a co-producer of Black Gold, the Jean-Jacques Annaud-directed feature that began production in Tunisia on October 18. DFI, making its first foray into a major international feature production, will provide a mix of equity, services and locations. Even though the $55 million picture is directed by a French helmer, Black Gold is shaping up to be groundbreaking for a film that is back by Arabs with subject matter about them. An adaptation of the Hans Reusch novel The Great Thirst, Black Gold stars Antonio Banderas, Tahar Rahim, Mark Strong, Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed and Liya Kebede. The drama is about the rivalry between two Emirs in Arabia in the 1930s, just as oil is being discovered, and the rise of a young dynamic leader who unites the various tribes of the desert kingdoms. The film is being earmarked for Christmas, 2011 release, and Warner Bros has signed on to distribute in France, UK, Latin America and the Middle East, while Universal Pictures International will release it in Germany and Spain and Quinta’s Eagle Pictures has Italy. Read More »
Warner Bros and Universal are sharing territories on Tunisian entrepreneur Tarak Ben Ammar’s next feature Black Gold. The story revolves around the rivalry between Arabian rulers in the 1930s just as oil is being discovered, and the rise of a young, dynamic leader who unites the various tribes of the desert kingdoms. Filming begins in Tunisia on October 18, with shooting taking place in Ben Ammar’s Empire Studios and on location in Tunisia. Tahar Rahim (A Prophet), Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes), Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire), Riz Ahmed and Liya Kebede star along with Banderas. Jean-Jacques Annaud (Enemy at the Gate, Seven Years In Tibet) will direct, based on the screenplay by Menno Meyjes (Empire of the Sun, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). Warner will distribute in France, the UK, Latin America and the Middle East. Universal Pictures International (UPI) is releasing the film in Germany and Spain. Quinta Communications’ Eagle Pictures is handling distribution in Italy. Quinta says remaining territories are being finalised for a worldwide Christmas 2011 release. Ben Ammar, who sits on the board of The Weinstein Company, most recently co-produced Rachid Bouchareb’s Outside the Law.