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Tom Gores joins the hunt for Miramax

February 19, 2010 |  7:15 pm
Walt Disney Co. hopes to unload the assets of its recently shuttered specialty label Miramax Films by mid-March. But at this juncture it's unclear which prospective buyer is willing to fork over the premium the entertainment giant is seeking.  Il4yumncTOMGORES

Two prospective bidders -- Summit Entertainment and Amir Malin's investment fund Qualia Capital -- have already backed away from the bidding as their valuations fell far short of what Disney wants for the Miramax library and name, people familiar with the matter said.

Some suitors have balked at Disney's $700-million asking price, concluding that cash flow projections for Miramax's library of more than 600 film titles don't support such a figure, said the people close to the situation.

Meanwhile, a new interested party has surfaced, according to several people: Platinum Equity Partners, the Beverly Hills investment firm headed by Tom Gores. Platinum is evaluating the asset but it's unclear whether Miramax would fit in with its investment criteria, or whether Gores might pursue the transaction privately -- if at all.

Gores, whose brother Sam Gores runs Paradigm Talent Agency, has taken personal stakes in various entertainment ventures, including at one point Lions Gate Entertainment and the 2005 Andy Garcia drama "The Lost City."

Disney is looking to pare the field of serious bidders and wrap up a deal within a few weeks, one insider said.

Among them is Lions Gate, the independent studio behind the Oscar-nominated drama "Precious" and the popular cable TV shows "Weeds" and "Mad Men." Lions Gate, which has built itself through acquisitions of libraries and other media assets, isn't letting discontented shareholder Carl Icahn dissuade it from pursuing Miramax or another studio, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. This week Icahn, who is attempting to raise his stake in Lions Gate to just under 30%, said he opposed the company's making any major deals without first putting it to a shareholder vote.

Perhaps no one is more motivated to buy Miramax than its founders -- Bob and Harvey Weinstein -- who launched the company in 1979 and named it after their parents, Miriam and Max.

However, it's not clear that they are in position to win back the company they sold to Disney in 1993 and left behind in 2005. While the Weinsteins are having talks with potential backers, including private equity firms, their financing is still not in place, people close to the matter say. It is also uncertain how the backers of their current production company, Weinstein Co., which has had its own financial challenges, would react to the brothers' trying to execute such a big acquisition.

Another looky-loo, people in the know said, is Pangea Media Group, a company controlled by embattled Hollywood entrepreneur David Bergstein.

One potential monkey wrench in any Miramax acquisition: Disney wants the deal to include six movies that the specialty label has in the can. One party said Disney is assigning a value of more than $100 million to those completed films, a steep price to pay for a slate that has yet to be seen.

Miramax's recent track record at the box office -- with such misses as "Everybody's Fine," with Robert De Niro; "The Boys Are Back," starring Clive Owen; and the Stephen Frears-directed period picture "Cheri" -- may not give potential buyers a lot of confidence in the unreleased pictures. Among the six films are "The Baster," starring Jennifer Aniston; the thriller "The Debt," with "Avatar" star Sam Worthington; and director Julie Taymor's "The Tempest," headlined by Helen Mirren.

-- Claudia Eller and Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photo: Tom Gores. Credit: Firooz Zahedi Platinum Equity