Media Equities Entertainment Intl. — an investment group made up of former entertainment execs — has taken a controlling interest in Beverly Hills-based Dove Entertainment Inc., with Ron Lightstone being appointed acting CEO of the book publisher and production-distribution company.
As part of the deal announced Wednesday, Michael Viner and Deborah Raffin Viner will exit the company they founded. MEI purchased 500,000 shares of common stock and all of the preferred stock held by the Viners.
While the Viners relinquished their executive posts, directorships and controlling stake in Dove, they will remain the second-largest shareholders of the company. Both will serve as consultants to Dove for the next five years.
In March, MEI began building a stake in Dove, striking two deals that gave them a combined $6 million equity investment in the company. MEI consists of Lightstone, the former chief executive of Spelling Intl.; Terrence A. Elkes, former president and CEO of Viacom Intl.; Ken Gorman, former exec VP of Viacom Intl.; and Jack Healy and Bruce Maggin, both of whom held senior positions at ABC and are currently partners of HAM Media Group LLC.
Wednesday’s deal brings MEI’s stake in the company to approximately $7 million.
“Today marks a milestone for our company,” said Viner. “I feel that Ron Lightstone and MEI are the right people to take the company to the next level. I am certain that MEI’s significant resources, both managerial and financial, will strengthen Dove and lead the company to future profitable growth.”
Although Dove has had a few bestselling books, most notably Faye Resnick’s “Nicole Brown Simpson: Diary of a Life Interrupted,” the company’s stock has tumbled consistently and there has been speculation that Dove may get out of the publishing business. When MEI struck its initial deal with Dove (Daily Variety, March 5), Maggin said that the first objective of the group was to improve the marketing of the company’s products. “Dove has an enormously valuable library of films and books, and we want to exploit that in terms of physical production and other ways,” he said at the time.
While Viner said he wanted to continue in the publishing biz, he would not say whether that involvement would continue to be with Dove or whether he might establish an imprint elsewhere. Viner continues to serve as executive producer and Raffin Viner continues as producer on the upcoming ABC movie of the week “Unwed Father,” which is being produced under the Dove/Fourpoint banner.
The Viners also will continue to develop a slate of film and TV projects, including the ABC movie “Futuresport,” in which Wesley Snipes has committed to star.
Viner said that while there had been some layoffs since MEI partners joined the company’s board of directors in March, he doesn’t foresee any further cutbacks; nor will the company move from its current location in the former Writers Guild of America building.
Viner added that one of the negotiating points of the deal with MEI was a “golden parachute for our two dogs. They’ll get one box each of dog bones each month for the next five years.”
Dove stock, which has tumbled from a high of $11.50 a year ago, rose 37.5¢ to $3.06.