Pandora sale also rumored in French shakeup

PARIS — The shakeup in France’s film sales and production community continues. Speculation abounds about the future of the Bouygues-owned Ciby 2000 and finance and sales company Pandora.

Sources at last week’s American Film Market told Daily Variety Ciby 2000 is up for sale as the giant Bouygues construction group seeks to concentrate on the French telephony market. Last year Ciby president Jean-Francois Fonlupt told Daily Variety he was in the process of trying to bring in outside investors who would get a maximum 40% stake in the production, distribution and sales entity. Now it appears the whole outfit is on the block. Seven-year-old Ciby has had critical success via its policy of supporting name directors such as Jane Campion, Mike Leigh, Emir Kusturica and Bernardo Bertolucci; however, three Cannes Palme d’Or wins — for “The Piano,” “Underground” and “Secrets & Lies” — have not translated into huge commercial hits.

Damage control

Ciby has limited the damage with some canny pre-selling by Ciby Sales. But in 1995, the Bouygues group was called on to carry out a $39 million capital increase, partly to cover losses and partly to continue funding production.

If Ciby is sold, Bouygues would still have an indirect interest in film production via private web TF1: Bouygues is the web’s major shareholder. TF1 has become increasingly active in financing pics, and little love is lost between TF1 management and Ciby. It has long been rumored that TF1 chairman Patrick Le Lay believes he should have overall control of all Bouygues’ audiovisual activity.

Meanwhile, TF1 is one of a handful of companies rumored to have kicked the tires of sales and finance company Pandora, currently riding a high from investing in Oscar nominee “Shine.”

Chair disenchanted

For several months now, there has been talk that Pandora chairman Christian Bourguignon wants either to bring in new shareholders or sell the company outright. Word is that Bourguignon has become disenchanted with the business. Bourguignon would not comment for Daily Variety.

However, there are increasing signs that some top execs are looking for an out. Daily Variety has talked to two experienced film execs who have been approached about replacing Pandora Cinema president Ernst Goldschmidt, the company’s film point man who is expected to leave in June. Goldschmidt denied last week that he is leaving.

The future of Pandora Cinema’s exec VP and senior sales person Sudy Coy also is uncertain. The word at AFM was that Coy may be preparing to retire.

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