Trimark taps bankers to seek buyers

Trimark Pictures is expected to announce today that it has retained investment bankers Societe Generale Bannon to advise the company on strategic alliances or a possible sale.

One party that has been approached, as expected (Daily Variety, April 11), is the investor group led by Bain Capital that recently acquired Live Entertainment.

In addition to Bain, sources say that Brad Krevoy, former co-head of Orion Pictures and Motion Picture Corp. of America, has expressed interest in Trimark’s availability.

Neither Bain nor Krevoy responded to calls over the weekend.

While some exploratory talks between Bain and the publicly held Trimark have occurred, sources on both sides say that no formal offer has been made, nor has a price been discussed.

People close to Trimark say that Bannon is likely to pitch Trimark to potential buyers as the last available indie film company holding a sizable library of titles and a domestic theatrical and video distribution apparatus.

Rivals in the indie field have been swept up by the recent merger of Orion with MGM and, subsequently, Bain’s purchase of Live.

Referring to Trimark’s last-man-standing status, Trimark co-founder and chairman Mark Amin said, “This has resulted in the company attracting an unusually high number of unsolicited inquiries from interested parties.”

Strong cash position

Bannon is also likely to underline Trimark’s strong cash position, due to previous writeoffs taken on film releases and productions, and with incoming revenue approaching $5 million from the release of “Sprung” and “Kama Sutra.” The company has also shipped 150,000 units of “Meet Wally Sparks,” which failed at the B.O. but will now, along with other releases such as the “9-1/2 Weeks” sequel, generate video coin.

The company also has about $25 million in negative costs tied to four films in the pipeline that have also been written off. But the P&A tab for those releases may be seen as a minus by potential buyers.

A 420-title library

Trimark’s main attraction for a buyer such as Bain would be its 420-title library, which includes a sprinkling of arthouse features such as “Federal Hill” and the upcoming “Box of Moonlight” and “Eve’s Bayou,” but is dominated by video titles and some genre franchises such as the fright film “Leprechaun.”

Chase Bank, which is also Live’s primary lender, has extended a $75 million revolving credit line to Trimark, of which between $45 million and $50 million has been used.

Bannon an active player

Bannon has been an active player in the indie arena. The firm was involved in the recent re-financing of Overseas Filmgroup and previously represented Westinghouse in the sale of Castle Rock to Turner Entertainment, as well as MGM in the re-financing of Carolco Pictures.

Bannon is also handling the sale of French film production and sales company Ciby 2000. The Bouygues-owned indie, which has produced arthouse hits such as “The Piano” and “Secrets and Lies,” has a library of about 100 titles (mostly French-lingo pics) including P.J. Hogan’s “Muriel’s Wedding,” David Lynch’s “Lost Highway” and Robert Altman’s “Kansas City.”

Ciby/Live compatibility

While Ciby has flirted with U.S. buyers, including major studios, it has so far failed to land one. There is some speculation in financial circles that Ciby may find compatibility with Live, now that Bain has come in with big backing and an appetite for more acquisitions.

Trimark stock jumped $1.50 to $6.87, a 61% rise in just two days at the end of last week as word of Trimark’s move spread through Wall Street.

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