Endemol deal to boost licenser's prod/distrib biz

BERLIN — Dutch-based Endemol Entertainment has taken a 51% share in Helkon Media, the Munich-based distributor/producer and licenser.

Endemol plans to put back half of the purchase price paid into Helkon to finance the growth of the company and expand its film library. Helkon founders Werner Koenig and Martin Heldmann will remain CEOs and will retain control over the company for at least the next five years.

“We didn’t just want a shareholder but a strategic partner,” Koenig told Daily Variety about the deal, which has been under negotiation for months. “It took so long to come to an agreement over the business plan, which we now have pre-approved and without which we wouldn’t have done the deal,” he said.

Licensing to remain at core

According to Koenig, the deal with Endemol will enhance the production and distribution side of the business, while licensing will remain the core part of the business.

Helkon, which has been in business since 1992, supplies German stations with product and their program library spans both recent German titles as well as European and American product.

Helkon is shooting the controversial Goetz George starrer “After the Truth,” about Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele, and is co-producing “Heavy Metal 2″ with Columbia TriStar.

Helkon is also set to co-finance “Space Travesty 2000″ with Leslie Nielsen, according to Koenig, as well as co-producing seven pics with Edward Pressman’s Film Corp.

Ambitious move

For Endemol the deal is part of an ambitious move to set up in Europe’s leading countries — Germany, Spain, France and Italy — as well as the U.S.

Endemol is expanding its German office and recently purchased a 51% stake in production company Non-Fiction, as well as a 49% stake in production company G.A.T. Endemol is also rumored to have put up a bid to take a 50% stake in the Cologne-based TV and film producer Gemini.

As part of its business strategy to launch into distributing English titles across Europe, Endemol recently inked deals with Win International Network for $30 million and Atlantis Communications for $80 million.

Since last December, the company has inked deals with U.S.-based Dick Clark and taken a 50% stake in the U.K.’s Broadcast Communications, a 45% stake in Italy’s Aran and a 51% stake in Paris-based ASP.

(Marlene Edmunds in Amsterdam contributed to this report.)

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