WhiteCliff buys Film Consortium

Company commits to buy out remaining interest

LONDON — WhiteCliff Film & TV has agreed to buy 51% of the Film Consortium, one of the U.K.’s three lottery franchises.

WhiteCliff, a publicly quoted company headed by entrepreneur Richard Thompson, is acquiring the 25% stake held by Virgin Cinemas and a further 26% from the four producer-shareholders — Scala, Parallax, Skreba and Greenpoint.

It has also committed to buying out their remaining 49% interest within three years.

Deal is subject to approval from the Arts Council of England, which oversees the lotto franchises. It will be the first time one of the franchises has changed hands.

Coming into view

Move also marks the emergence of the ambitious WhiteCliff as a leading player in the U.K. film industry.

Thompson, a millionaire whose background is in sports and manufacturing, launched WhiteCliff last year as a vehicle to invest in film and TV production. It owns Norma Heyman’s Pagoda Films, Gruber Films (“Waking Ned Devine”) and 75% of Hilary Heath’s Blackjack.

Producer Richard Holmes left Gruber to become managing director of WhiteCliff.

$48 mil available

The Film Consortium brings together some of the U.K.’s most experienced producers, including Nik Powell, Sally Hibbin and Simon Relph.

Up and running for just over two years, it has access to £30.25 million ($48.4 million) in lotto coin to co-finance some 39 British movies over the course of its six-year franchise.

To date it has completed five pics, including the Kate Winslet starrer “Hideous Kinky,” although none has achieved box office success. Two projects are in production — “Room to Rent,” starring Juliette Lewis, and an animated version of “A Christmas Carol.”

Chris Auty took over as chief exec of TFC last summer, with a brief to expand the company’s financial base.

“I’m delighted that we have reached this agreement with WhiteCliff, particularly given their ambitions for the business, their dynamic management and their publicly quoted status,” Auty commented.

Thompson described the deal as “a significant step on the road to building a self-sustaining, producer-led and market-driven company with an attractive investment profile.”

TFC owns 25% of the Sales Co., and may now seek to raise its stake with WhiteCliff’s backing.

No price has been announced for the 51% stake in TFC acquired by WhiteCliff, but it is believed to be about $2 million.

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