France's CDR preps sale of 1,000-title library

The French government agency CDR’s sale of the 1,000-title Epic film library is moving forward, CDR said Wednesday, as it disclosed the hiring of investment bank Furman Selz to handle the deal.

In March CDR hired Furman to advise on ways to sell the library and to do a valuation (Daily Variety, March 25). Furman will begin contacting possible buyers today.

Investment bankers say the library is worth between $150 million and $200 million and is likely to draw bids from major film studios, which can package it with their existing libraries, and some big foreign film companies such as Carlton and UGC.

Mixed rights

The rights available on most of the titles are TV and video in assorted foreign territories, although there are some domestic vid rights due to become available within a few years, sources say.

“This is one of the world’s largest collections of feature films, with opportunities for distribution through multiple channels in the United States and internationally,” CDR said in a statement. It added that almost two-thirds of the titles are owned in perpetuity and “a substantial portion” of the rest are owned for at least the next five years.

The library is a collection of titles inherited from independent film companies such as Epic, De Laurentiis and Hemdale that defaulted on their debts to French bank Credit Lyonnais. CDR was formed in 1995 to hold and eventually sell various assets inherited by Credit Lyonnais. CDR sold MGM last year.

Because of the great variety of titles in the collection, its purchase could represent a useful strategic acquisition for the right buyer.

“A thousand-title library doesn’t come onto the market every day,” said a source familiar with the collection. “This could instantly double the size of a studio’s film library.”

The titles include worldwide video rights on Castle Rock films such as “When Harry Met Sally… ,” “City Slickers,” “Misery” and “Malice,” which were inherited from Nelson Entertainment, which had helped finance the pictures. Nelson, subsequently known as Sultan, eventually went bankrupt and its assets wound up at CDR.

Other titles include “Mr. Mom,” “The Graduate,” “Hoosiers” and “Blue Velvet.” The bulk of the library is not A pictures, however.

No rush

Furman Selz is expected to take until the end of the year to run through the auction process. “This library is very significant in value and our job is to make sure we have totally covered the market to make sure CDR realizes the value,” said Furman Selz exec veep Michael Garin.

Sale of the library follows more than four years of work by attorneys to sort through the paperwork on the films and clarify ownership and licensees. For the past 2-1/2 years, that job has been overseen by Michel Lebrun, whom CDR hired years ago to manage the complicated inventory and track distribution rights through all worldwide territories.

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