Company Town

The business behind the show

« Previous Post | Company Town Home | Next Post »

Len Blavatnik investing in Weinstein Co. movie fund

October 11, 2010 |  7:18 pm

Industrialist Len Blavatnik’s bid to help bail out MGM may have been spurned, but his offer to help fund movies for his Hollywood pal Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob has been welcomed with open arms.

Blavatnik has agreed to invest in a new three-year film fund for the Weinstein Co. for a slate of movies with budgets of $5 million to $20 million. Initially, Blavatnik would invest $25 million into a revolving facility but could ultimately put up as much as $100 million, people close to the deal said.

Under the agreement, the Weinstein Co. will release the movies in the U.S. and Canada and also control rights in Australia, Germany and France. Blavatnik's U.K. based production, distribution and foreign sales company Icon Entertainment, headed by foreign distribution veteran Stewart Till, will release the films in Great Britian and handle all other international markets.

Profits from the films will be split evenly between the companies. 

Blavatnik's fund, under the auspices of Icon, will pay for all production costs. Icon and the Weinsteins will jointly select some of the movies, while others will be individually selected by each party.

The Weinstein Co. and Icon appear to have similar taste in movies. Over the years, Icon has distributed a number of films in the U.K., including "A Single Man," "The Road" and "Nowhere Boy," that Weinstein Co. released domestically.

The fund will bankroll new productions beyond Weinstein Co.'s planned slate of eight movies a year plus four to six acquisitions.

Under a debt restructuring agreement reached with investment bank Goldman Sachs in June, Weinstein Co. is financing its movies with receipts from its library of 112 movies plus a credit facility of $50 million. Under that deal, the studio turned over the rights and receivables to 225 of its other films to Goldman and insurance company Assured Guarantee to wipe out its debt and continue releasing movies.

Weinstein has been on a recent spending spree, getting involved with independent movies as the likely Oscar contender "The King's Speech," "Blue Valentine" and "Sarah's Key."

The studio also wrapped production on the $40-million-plus production "Scream 4," which will be released April 15, and is shooting a fourth "Spy Kids" movie, due out in August.

Blavatnik counts Harvey Weinstein as one of his closest friends in Hollywood. However, he declined Weinstein's request this year to be the main backer of a bid buy Miramax Films after Disney put the independent film studio that the brothers founded on the auction block. The Weinsteins ended up making an offer with supermarket mogul Ron Burkle and other investors but lost out to a group led by  construction magnate Ron Tutor.

Blavatnik's investment in the Weinstein Co. movies signals the Ukrainian-born businessman's desire to expand his foothold in Hollywood.  His New York-based firm Access Industries owns stakes in Israeli pay-TV channels (RGE Group), TopUpTV, a pay TV service in the U.K., an online live sports platform called Perform and mobile networks. In 2008, Access bought the U.K. arm of actor-director Mel Gibson's Icon Prods. Blavatnik owns a minority stake in Warner Music Group and previously served on the board.

Earlier this year, Blavatnik proposed a plan to recapitalize MGM. But like other suitors, Blavatnik eventually walked away when his bid was shunned.

The news of Blavatnik's involvement with the Weinstein Co. was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

— Claudia Eller and Ben Fritz