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Havas, Carlton eyeing New Line

NEW YORK — French media giant Havas and U.K. broadcaster Carlton Communications are two members of a European consortium looking to invest in New Line Cinema, sources said.

That consortium, and another led by Chris-Craft Industries (Daily Variety, Feb. 28), are the two investor groups said to be going through due diligence on New Line; however, the Havas-Carlton team is considered to be the more serious contender.

New Line chairman Robert Shaye and chief operating officer Michael Lynne began discussions with Havas last year about a possible investment in the company, which is owned by Time Warner as a result of its acquisition of Turner Broadcasting System.

German angle

There may also be a German component to the consortium. One possibility is Herbert Kloiber’s Tele-Munchen Group, which has been in discussions with another new Time Warner company, Castle Rock Entertainment.

Rather than acquiring the company, the Havas-led consortium would make a significant investment in New Line, allowing Shaye and Lynne to have equity in the company they founded. Shaye and Lynne have been working to find investors for the company since Time Warner acquired it.

Executives from New Line have been traveling to the U.K. and France regularly over the past few months.

New Line and Havas are already in business together. They have a joint venture — NHVL Partners — that was set up in 1995 to invest in interactive games and software following a successful partnership in an interactive game based on the New Line film “The Mask.”

Expansion mode

Havas is France’s second-largest publicly held media group and has been in expansion mode lately. Recently, Havas underwent a shareholder reshuffle in which Compagnie Generale des Eaux, the giant waterworks utility in France, became the major shareholder in Havas, and Havas in turn became the lead investor in Canal Plus.

Similarly, Carlton Communications has been increasing its presence in the entertainment industry and is close to sealing a deal to acquire Rank Film Distributors. A major broadcaster and TV producer, Carlton also owns Technicolor, which has been a cash cow for the company.

New Line execs could not be reached for comment. Time Warner had no comment.

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