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:
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.
Business school students who want to test their accounting skills should check out today’s fiscal Q3 report from Cinedigm Digital Cinema. The official numbers look scary, with a net loss increasing to $10.6M from $4.1M in the period last year, on revenues of $19.8M, up 23%. But Cinedigm is in the middle of a corporate transformation to focus on providing alternative programming such as sports events and concerts to digitally equipped movie theaters. That loaded $8.1M in non-cash and one-time charges to the books — some of it due to the company’s decision to sell its physical and electronic distribution business to Technicolor for an undisclosed amount. Wipe that away, and you’re left with what CEO Chris McGurk says is a “strong” report with figures that “reflect the progress we’ve made.” Cinedigm shares have been a roller coaster ride since he took over early last year but are up 31% over the last 12 months — including a 50% spike in just the last two weeks following the announcement of a deal with New Video to bring more independent films to theaters.
EXCLUSIVE: Paramount’s announcement on Tuesday that it was teaming with Deluxe Entertainment Services Group to become the first major studio to stream its awards consideration films online made news and tech-challenged voters nervous. (So far, it is a pilot program for the Visual Effects Society; a Paramount source told me they were selected because they are deemed the most likely to be able to figure out how to do it.) But this isn’t the only awards-season noise the newly aggressive Deluxe has been making this month. Another of their moves even raised eyebrows among several rank-and-file Academy voters.
Last week, some concerned Academy members contacted me regarding an emailed letter they had received from Deluxe Media Management asking for confirmation of their contact information and directing them to a detailed survey of the members’ personal details in their database. A bolded note near the bottom warned: “PLEASE NOTE: We must receive verification of your contact information before screeners or other materials can be sent.” This letter was preceded by an introductory email a week earlier telling members that Deluxe was the “preferred industry partner for distribution of awards consideration materials” and would be sending a subsequent email instructing them how to update their contact information and that their privacy would be respected and info remain confidential. The second letter began by saying:
Dear AMPAS Member,
Since 2003, Deluxe Media Management has been producing, manufacturing and fulfilling watermarked and regular DVD screeners for our studio clients. On behalf of our studio clients, Deluxe also distributes screening calendars and various awards materials to AMPAS members worldwide. Please take a moment to confirm your contact information is current in our database. This will ensure timely dielivery of your awards consideration materials.
Nowhere is this letter do they identify who those studio clients are, and some AMPAS members I have talked to were concerned about being solicited directly by an outside vendor requesting personal information. But due to the wording of the letter, they were worried they wouldn’t get screeners if they didn’t comply.
Paris (France), Los Angeles (California), 26 September 2011 – Technicolor (Euronext Paris: TCH) and top film financing and sales company IM Global today announce they have entered into a partnership encompassing a multi-year service arrangement. Technicolor will provide IM Global with a broad range of services including front end services, international release and trailer printing and distribution services, including Digital Cinema, for international theatrical and subsequent ancillary platforms to accommodate IM Global’s expanding slate of in-house financed productions.
DreamWorks Animation production co-president John Batter is stepping down and will take up the post of CEO of MediaNavi, a Technicolor content-distribution platform. Batter was elevated to his most recent DWA role in 2007 after joining the company in 2006; before that, he worked at video game maker Electronic Arts and at DreamWorks Studios.
UPDATE: Cinedigm Plans Major Effort To Reshape Movie Theater Entertainment After Selling Distribution Biz To Technicolor
Cinedigm shares are up 8.7% in after hours trading following the announcement of a deal that clarifies the company’s growing focus on digital entertainment that exhibitors can show at times when many have trouble filling seats. Cinedigm will continue to help theaters install digital projectors, CEO Chris McGurk tells me. But it’s turning over to Technicolor the part of the business that delivers digital entertainment to theaters via satellite or hard drives. ”More and more our focus will be on software and content” says McGurk who ran Anchor Bay Entertainment before moving to Cinedigm in January.
Indeed, over the next two months he says he’ll begin to announce deals with theater owners who’ll let Cinedigm program venues like a TV network. “Monday could be action sports night,” he says. “Tuesday could be opera night. Wednesday could be Broadway night.” He says theaters could sell tickets on a subscription basis. One incentive to sign on: ”We’re going to cut exhibitors in on the downstream VOD, DVD, pay TV and free TV sales from content that debuts in their theaters. I don’t think anyone has ever offered that in exhibition before.” Cinedigm also will continue to offer one-off events similar to the 3D showing in April of a live concert by Foo Fighters.
Meanwhile McGurk says Cinedigm is looking for other deals to help clarify its new direction. “The company is in five different businesses and has had a confusing story to the investment community,” he says. “We’re looking to rationalize our businesses other than software and content.”
Here’s the announcement of the deal with Technicolor:
Ah, the duopoly that controls film post production servicing seems alive and well, though it’s interesting that just when many studios are running away from Technicolor in favor of Deluxe, Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity is running towards Technicolor:
Paris (France) & Hollywood (California) – January 10, 2011 – Technicolor today announced it has formed a strategic partnership with Relativity Media, a media and entertainment company known for creating, financing and distributing content across all platforms, to provide a broad range of services including production, post production, release printing and distribution services for theatrical and subsequent windows.
Under the terms of the exclusive long-term agreement, Technicolor will provide Relativity Media with an extensive range of production and post production services including visual effects and film services including 35mm trailers release printing, and front-end negative processing. Also included are theatrical distribution services across both 35mm film and digital cinema, along with marketing services. Technicolor will also be a preferred provider a number of digital services including DVD compression & authoring, media management, and digital delivery to consumers.