Danny Trejo, Mischa Barton, Michael Madsen Star In AMBI’s ‘Hope Lost’
Danny Trejo, Mischa Barton, Michael Madsen and Daniel Baldwin are set to star in Hope Lost, a crime thriller from Italy’s AMBI Pictures. David Petrucci is directing the film from a screenplay by Francesco Trento, Damiano Giacomelli, Francesco Teresi and Loretta Tersigni. A bored young woman who dreams of the life of soap opera characters meets a mysterious man who charms her away from her small hometown then sells her to a pimp. The cast also includes Andrey Chernishov, Francesca Agostini and Alessia Navarro. Principal photography will begin this month in Rome with Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi and Cosetta Turco producing and Danielle Maloni executive producing.
Liberty Global Acquires Remaining Shares Of Chile’s VTR
Liberty Global said today that it has acquired the remaining 20% of the outstanding shares in both VTR GlobalCom and VTR Wireless in a stock-swap deal. The shares in Chile’s largest cable operator were purchased from a subsidiary of Corp Group Holding Inversiones Limitada in exchange for 10.1 million Liberty Global Class C ordinary shares. The purchased shares had a market value of about $422 million, based on Liberty Global’s closing price of $41.80 per share on March 13, 2014.1 The deal gives VTR Finance B.V., the parent entity of Liberty’s recently created Chilean credit pool, 100% of both the Chilean … Read More »
Anurag Kashyap To Petition India’s High Court Over Anti-Smoking Disclaimer
Indian director Anurag Kashyap is reportedly filing a petition with the High Court of Mumbai against the local censor board after it sought to have the filmmaker insert a government-mandated anti-smoking warning into his drama Ugly. The movie, which debuted in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, is set for release on January 3 in its home territory. The Bollywood Hungama blog says Kashyap contends the disclaimers, which would appear when anyone lights up on screen, restrain filmmakers’ rights to freedom of speech and expression. Per the blog, Kashyap claims the warning also destroys the aesthetic value of a film and distracts the audience. India’s censors cracked down on smoking last year, and last month Woody Allen pulled his Blue Jasmine from release in India over the disclaimers.
Berlin’s Historic Zoo Palast Reopening After Renovation
Berlin’s Zoo Palast cinema is to reopen on Thursday after a major renovation. AFP reports that the former Cold War-era theater will have seating for 1,650 moviegoers in seven screening rooms. The theater originally opened in 1919 as the Ufa-Palast am Zoo and was the largest cinema in Germany until 1929. It was a major location for film premieres, including Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph Of The Will under the Nazis in 1935. It was destroyed in a 1943 Allied bombing raid and replaced in 1957 by the Zoo Palast. The recent three-year restoration cost €7.4M ($10.1M), according to AFP. The Zoo Palast also was part of the Berlin International Film Festival until 1999 when the fest moved its center of activity to Potsdamer Platz. Read More »
It’s a big day for $1B+ overseas TV deals. French conglomerate Vivendi has agreed to pay €1.02B ($1.4B) in cash for media group Lagardère’s 20% holding in Canal Plus France. This will give Vivendi a 100% stake in the French pay-TV unit, which falls under the Canal Plus Group, of which Vivendi already holds 100%. The agreement follows years of back-and-forth that has seen Lagardère consider a float of its holding on the Paris stock exchange and also sue Vivendi for €1.6B earlier this year in a dispute over a cash-management agreement. The parties have been in mediation for months and said today’s sale agreement “puts an end to all disputes between the two groups related to this participation.” Vivendi is in the process of exploring a split into two separate companies. The Universal Music Group owner would create a new international media group with interests in music, film, pay-TV and online as one business, and mobile phone operator SFR as the other. Canal Plus France, which traditionally makes its money from sports and movies, has been locked in a costly battle with Al Jazeera-backed BeIN Sport over soccer and other rights since the latter entered the fray in 2012. The deal, however, allows Vivendi to shed a minority shareholder with whom its had a bumpy ride and at a time when … Read More »
Taking a page from News Corp’s book, French conglomerate Vivendi is moving closer to splitting itself into two separate companies. Canal Plus and Universal Music Group owner Vivendi says it is launching a study to weigh a demerger that would create, on one side, a new international media group with interests in music, film, pay-TV and online. On the other side would be SFR, the mobile phone operator that Vivendi says would “gain greater freedom on strategy and developing partnerships.” A final decision on the split is expected early next year. The idea that Vivendi would break up its media and telecom assets has been floated before, but this is the first official indication. The company has long met with investor criticism over what’s known as the conglomerate discount – the difference between what a company’s holdings are worth and the real value the market places on the whole. Billionaire shareholder Vincent Bolloré told French financial daily Les Echos that the board was “unanimously agreed that there were no synergies between telecoms and content,” which was aggravating the share price. “I feel the split is an attractive plan, and it has my total support.” With a view to the new structure, Bolloré, who owns 5% of Vivendi, now becomes vice chairman of the supervisory board.
The current 14% gain for Santa Monica-based Activision Blizzard so far in Nasdaq trading today comes hours after parent company Vivendi announced a $8.17 billion deal to sell back the majority of the video game giant to a group that includes Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. That ends the French company’s five-year hold on the vidgame biz’s biggest company — among Blizzard’s titles are the uber-popular Call Of Duty and World Of Warcraft franchises — and is fueling speculation that Vivendi will continue to pare down assets and rebuild itself as a media and content company. Proceeds from today’s deal are being used to cut Vivendi’s more than $17 billion in debt and rebuild it around Universal Music Group and pay-TV provider Canal Plus. Vivendi brass says such a split-up could include French mobile phone company SFR, which is Vivendi’s largest unit. Bloomberg reports that following the Activision Blizzard deal to make it an independent company that Vivendi’s remaining assets — UMG, Canal Plus and Brazilian broadband provider GVT — accounted for about 40% of the Paris-based conglom’s 2012 revenue.
‘Kill Your Darlings’ Gets Venice Days Berth
The Venice Film Festival‘s parallel Venice Days section unveiled its lineup today with 12 films in official selection. All feature debuts in the sidebar are eligible for the festival’s Lion of the Future prize while all the European films will compete for the Europa Cinemas Label. The Venice Days Association organizes the event with support from the Culture Ministry in collaboration with the Venice Biennale. Venice Days is collaborating for the first time this year with the Tribeca Film Festival to bring an American film, in this case Lennie Cooke, to the Lido for its international premiere. Conversely, Venice Days will send a film to Tribeca next year. The 12 official competition titles are: Alienation by Milko Lazarov; La Belle Vie by Jean Denizot; Bethlehem by Yuval Adler; Gerontophilia by Bruce LaBruce; Kill Your Darlings by John Krokidas; Nobody’s Home by Deniz Akçay Katıksız; May In The Summer by Cherien Dabis; La Mia Classe by Daniele Gaglianone; La Reconstruccion by Juan Taratugo; Rigor Mortis by Juno Mak; Siddharth by Richie Mehta and Traitors by Sean Gullette. Read More »
Veteran Exec François Ivernel Exits Pathé To Launch Production Company
Pathé said today that veteran top executive François Ivernel has resigned to launch Montebello Productions, a London-based film-production company that will open June 3. He most recently held several titles within the French company, serving as chairman of the board and managing director of Les Cinémas Gaumont Pathé, deputy managing director of Pathé, as a member of its executive board and as president of Pathe U.K. Ivernel’s executive producer credits include the Best Picture Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire and Palme d’Or-winning The Wind That Shakes The Barley.
Vivendi Agrees To Mediation With Lagardere Over Canal Plus France
Vivendi agreed Friday that a mediator should decide its legal spat with Lagardere over their pay-TV venture Canal Plus France. Lagardere had said in February it was suing Vivendi for 1.6 billion euros ($2 billion). Reuters reports that the media group wants Vivendi to return the sum to Canal+ France because it claims Vivendi – which owns 80% of the venture — is making permanent use of the business’s entire cash surplus under a disputed cash management agreement between the venture and its Vivendi-owned parent. Vivendi has in turn accused Lagardere of trying to destabilize it and force it to buy back Lagardere’s 20 percent stake in Canal+ France, a move Vivendi.
A group of private equity firms may bid against DirecTV to acquire GVT, the Brazilian broadband unit of Canal Plus owner Vivendi. The firms include KKR, Apax Partners, JPMorgan Chase’s Gavea Investments and Cambuhy Investimentos, Bloomberg reports. The consortium would be willing to pay about 5B euros ($6.78B), starkly lower than Vivendi’s 8B euro ($10.85B) asking price. But DirecTV may get closer to the ask, as it eyes increased demand for pay-TV and Internet service in Latin America and with growth subsiding in the U.S., Bloomberg sources said. “I see it as a nice-to-have, not a must-have,” DirecTV CEO Mike White said earlier this month. “There are synergies, but it’s still a work in process, and I can’t yet tell you whether the synergies are big enough for me to get comfortable that they can more than offset the premium. All that depends on the price.” DirecTV, Liberty Global, America Movil and Read More »
A federal judge has awarded Liberty Media a $999 million judgment against Vivendi in a lawsuit decided by a jury in June 2012, Bloomberg reports. The jury had agreed that Vivendi inflated the value of shares in USA Networks that Vivendi sold to Liberty, and the judge calculated the damages as €765 million with interest from December 2001, according to a court filing Tuesday. Judge Shira Scheindlin said the damages would be calculated in euros because Liberty “bore risk and suffered losses” in euros. The verdict is the fourth-largest in the U.S. in 2012. The biggest was the $1.17 billion award to Carnegie Mellon University over Marvell Technology. Second-largest was Apple’s $1.05 billion verdict against Samsung, followed by Monsanto’s $1 billion victory over DuPont.
Related: Liberty Media Makes Starz Spinoff Official
Satellite company DirecTV, John Malone’s Liberty Global, Carlos Slim’s America Movil and a group of private equity funds have entered non-binding bids to acquire GVT, the Brazilian broadband unit of French conglom Vivendi. The offers are each more than 6B euros ($7.79B), but are less than the 7B euros Vivendi was seeking, according to Reuters. Vivendi, which owns pay-TV giant Canal Plus, has been looking to divest of some telecom assets as it focuses on developing its content and media businesses. GVT provides fixed telephone, broadband and TV services in 120 Brazilian cities. Among the bidders, America Movil owns Brazil’s third-largest mobile operator Claro and DirecTV’s Sky Brasil holds about 30% of the pay-TV market. Final bids are expected by early January, Reuters said.
Vivendi Chief Financial Officer Philippe Capron told an earnings analyst conference today: “Clearly a breakup would lead to very great difficulty in apportioning of the debt. We don’t see how to keep quality ratings on both sides. A straight break up is not something we are contemplating for the time being.” In April, the breakup of its telecom and media assets to solve Vivendi’s slumping share price was reported under consideration despite what it might do to the company’s long-term debt rating. “Whatever we do will be driven in large part to make sure value is preserved for bondholders,” Capron said. The French media and telecommunications group announced cost-cutting after posting a 43% drop in second quarter net profit owing to higher taxes and a decline in the group’s core earnings. Vivendi said its net profit fell to 463 million euros ($580 million dollars) in the three-month period, on sales that slipped by 1.5 percent to 6.96 billion euros. “We are suffering from the price reset in the French mobile market,” Capron said. “We have to adapt to the new reality.” Vivendi shares showed a gain of 3.44 percent to 15.63 euros in morning trades on the Paris stock exchange, which was down by 0.20 percent overall.
French media conglomerate Vivendi is stepping up a strategic review of its businesses as it decides whether to sell or spin off some of its assets. Chairman Jean-René Fourtou has appointed executives to help reassess the company’s structure including Canal Plus chairman Bertrand Meheut, who will conduct a study on the development of media and content. Along with leading French pay-TV Canal Plus, Vivendi owns the Universal Music Group and a controlling stake in game maker Activision Blizzard. Jean-Yves Charlier, formerly the CEO of interactive education developer Promethean and a longtime telecom exec, will leave Vivendi’s supervisory board to join the company as senior exec VP in charge of telecoms activities. He will be involved in a strategic review of the company’s SFR, GVT and Maroc Telecom businesses. Vivendi is consulting with bankers on ways to raise money from such assets as Activision and GVT, according to The Financial Times, but it could also split its media and telecoms groups into two distinct companies. Similar to News Corp prior its decision to divide into two entities, Vivendi has met with investor criticism over what’s known as the conglomerate discount – the difference between what a company’s holdings are worth and the real value the market places on the whole. In June, longtime Vivendi CEO, Jean-Bernard Levy, left the company following calls for him to address the media giant’s … Read More »
Jean-Bernard Levy joined Vivendi in 2002 and became chief executive in 2005. Since then, he’s run a conglomerate that owns the world’s biggest music company in Universal Music Group, European TV giant Canal Plus, and 61% of video game publisher Activision Blizzard. Via UMG, Vivendi is also in the process of acquiring EMI’s recorded music division for $1.9B. Last year, Levy oversaw the selloff of Vivendi’s 20% stake in NBCUniversal. There have been calls for Levy to address low valuation at the Paris-based media giant, according to Bloomberg, with its stock price down 18% this year and its bond rating in peril. It’s also understood that increasing disagreements over strategy are behind his expected departure. Levy has not been keen to spin-off or sell assets while supervisory board president, Jean-René Fourtou, has recently pondered whether the group’s activities should be split into two or three parts, French business daily La Tribune notes. And, in a hangover from Vivendi’s Jean-Marie Messier days, a New York jury earlier this week awarded Liberty Media more than $956M, finding that Vivendi Universal had misled John Malone’s company about the value of Vivendi shares in 2002 when it bought Liberty’s stake in USA Networks. Vivendi is expected to make a formal announcement on Levy later today.
A New York jury awarded Liberty Media more than $956M, finding that Vivendi Universal misled John Malone’s company about the value of Vivendi shares in 2002 when it bought Liberty’s stake in USA Networks. Liberty will seek pre-judgement interest on the sum that the jury awarded with its verdict finding Vivendi guilty of breach of contract and fraud. Vivendi says that it “believes that there are many grounds for appeal and continues to believe strongly that it did nothing wrong and will continue to vigorously defend itself in any subsequent appellant proceedings.” But Liberty says that it is “confident” that the U.S. District Court jury’s decision “will stand.” Liberty charged that former Vivendi CEO Jean-Marie Messier hid his company’s growing debt and limited cash before it made the $10.3B transaction to buy USA, then controlled by Barry Diller. Liberty received 37.6M Vivendi shares in return for its minority stake. Vivendi dumped Messier a few months after the deal closed as the extent of its financial problems became apparent. Law firm Baker Botts represented Liberty while Weil Gotshal & Manges and Cravath Swaine & Moore defended Vivendi.
Canal Plus Eyes Vincent Bollore’s Channels In Free TV Push
Vivendi’s Canal Plus said today it is working to take a majority stake in channels owned by French billionaire Vincent Bollore, as part of a push into free TV. Its proposed deal would give Canal Plus 60% of Direct 8 and music-focused Direct Star in exchange for Vivendi shares. Canal Plus has an option to buy the remainder within the next three years, its head Bertrand Meheut told French daily Les Echos. The deal, subject to approval by the government and employee reps, values the Bollore assets at about $650M. Canal Plus wants to defend itself against new players in France such as Netflix, Google and Apple.
WB’s ‘Great Gatsby’ Adds Indian Icon Amitabh Bachchan
Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan is making his Hollywood debut in Warner Bros’ new adaptation of The Great Gatsby. He’ll play Meyer Wolfsheim, a Jewish man described as a gambler in F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel. The $126M film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Baz Luhrmann, has begun shooting in Australia. Bachchan, 68, has acted in more than 180 Indian films over a 40-year period. He remains Indian’s most popular actor and recently returned as the celebrity host of the Indian version of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. Read More »
Vivendi announced today that the current CEO of UMG will add chairman to his title at the world’s biggest music company, which has operations in 77 countries. He will remain on Vivendi’s board of directors and was added to the board at the French conglomerate’s vidgame publisher Activision Blizzard, which is based in Santa Monica. The move comes on the heels of Sony Music last week hiring Doug Morris as its CEO.
Vivendi has officially divested itself from NBC Universal, selling the remaining portion of its 20% stake in the company back to General Electric before the merger with Comcast is officially complete on Friday. The price: Vivendi received a total of $5.8 billion for the 20% stake. In a statement, Vivendi CEO Jean-Bernard Levy said, “We are very satisfied that our objective to exit NBC Universal has been completed. Vivendi is fully focused on pursuing its profitable growth strategy.”
Former Vivendi Universal executives Edgar Bronfman, Jr. and Jean-Marie Messier have been found guilty in Paris of criminal charges relating to misleading investors and insider trading. Ending a trial that began in June 2009, Bronfman, who at the time was Vivendi’s vice-chairman and now serves as CEO of Warner Music, received a suspended sentence of 15 years and a fine of $6.7 million related to insider trading. Messier received a suspended sentence of three years and a fine of $204,000 for charges that included misleading investors. He was found not guilty of a charge of manipulating share prices. The three-judge panel wrote that Messier “had awarded to himself, while the company was in grave difficulty, very large amounts.” Bronfman and Messier plan on appealing. In a statement, Bronfman said, “I am disappointed that the Court differed with both the Paris public prosecutor and the lead civil claimant in the case. As I have consistently stated, my trades were proper.” Messier, who left Vivendi in 2002, said that the ruling was “profoundly unjust” and that he had “always led this company with integrity.” Also convicted was former Vivendi finance director Guillaume Hannezo, who was fined and received a 15-month suspended sentence. The convictions follow a class-action lawsuit in New York brought last January in which Messier and Hannezo were cleared of misleading investors.
French publisher Lagardere has begun the process of selling its 20% share of the pay-TV group Canal Plus now that talks with 80% owner Vivendi have broken down. Vivendi was not going to pay the €1.4 billion ($1.8 billion) Lagardere wanted. Analysts I’ve spoken say that the IPO threat by Lagardere threat could be a way of forcing Vivendi back to the table.
But it also could backfire. Juliano Hiroshi Torii, media analyst at Societe Generale, tells me Vivendi could just wait a couple of years and buy back the 20% for less than the €1 billion it’s already offered. Analysts say that in current market conditions, combined with the need to offer potential investors a discount, Lagardere is unlikely to get more than that if it goes down the IP0 route. Lagardere hopes potential investors will be tempted by thinking they can turn the stake in a couple of years’ time. Hiroshi Torii says, “It’s an ineffective threat because Vivendi is not in any hurry to buy.”
Lagardere publishes magazines Elle and Paris Match and runs TV and radio stations. Its move to seek a sale has been widely expected since the group has long said it wanted to exit Canal Plus. Analysts say Lagardere trades at a 15-20% discount as investors punish it for owning minority stakes outside its core magazine and book publishing business.
Vivendi has been buying up other minority stakes and may not want Lagardere’s 20% getting away. Vivendi bought … Read More »