German’s L.A. play

Helkon takes 19% stake in Newmarket funder

BERLIN — Upstart German film player Helkon Media has scored a coup by buying a 19% stake in L.A.-based boutique financier Newmarket Capital.

The deal, expected to be announced today, is understood to give the German licensing, production and distribution outfit the option to acquire Newmarket product for the German market.

In addition, Helkon now has the opportunity to tap into the big Hollywood leagues through Newmarket’s network of partners, which includes Lawrence Bender, John Wood and Terence Chang, Neil Moritz and Team Todd.

Newmarket and Bender are currently developing “The Mexican,” which is out to Johnny Depp for the lead role.

Aggressive strategy

The acquisition is in line with Helkon’s aggressive pursuit of U.S. partnerships. The company has steadily built up relationships with an assortment of outfits, including Seven Arts, Dark Castle, Intermedia and Ed Pressman.

Since its launch in 1994, Newmarket has funded and developed a slew of projects with players such as Neil Moritz and his Sony-based Original Pictures, with which Newmarket has a development deal.

Newmarket also has a financing and joint production venture with filmmaker Christopher Nolan, who helmed “Memento,” a co-production with Team Todd. Woo and Chang will direct and produce “Mint Condition” for Newmarket as well.

Newmarket-backed titles include Universal’s upcoming “Skulls,” co-produced with Moritz, and the Mike Leigh-helmed “Topsy-Turvy” from Studios USA.

Teutons claiming stakes

The Newmarket deal is the latest splash from a wave of cash-flush Germans staking claims in North American outfits.

Rights trader Tele-Munchen earlier this month invested DM20 million ($10.5 million) in Lions Gate Entertainment. Kinowelt Medien acquired a significant stake in Canada’s Alliance-Atlantis late last year, and distrib Splendid took a 50% stake in Initial Entertainment Group.

Newmarket was founded by ex-Daiwa bank execs William Tyrer and Chris Ball. Helkon was set up by producer Werner Koenig and partner Martin Heldmann, and the company went public in October 1999.

Helkon and Newmarket declined comment.

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