Not long ago, Jean Labadie was top dog in the French distrib biz, making his rivals green with envy as he nabbed all the best pics while running a successful joint venture with Studio Canal and servicing an output deal with Miramax.
But in a stunning reversal of fortune, Labadie is battling to save his company, Bac Majestic, from ruin.
The Miramax deal is over — the two sides are waging war via their lawyers. And the French equivalent of the Securities & Exchange Commission last week nixed a rescue operation by a Belgian businessman, who was poised to take 75% of the embattled film group.
The crisis has been the talk of the French film industry, with everyone from producers to film labs to ad agencies nervously wondering if Bac is going to settle its debts.
“Bac hasn’t got a cent to pay its bills,” whispered one insider.
Worried creditors are said to include filmmaker Cedric Klapisch, who allegedly hasn’t received a franc for his money-making sleeper hit “L’Auberge Espagnole,” distributed by Bac. Ad agency Paname is owed an estimated $5 million.
Neither would comment last week.
But Bac Majestic managing director Alain Manou Mani says everyone will get their money — thanks to an 11th-hour rescue by an as-yet-unnamed savior.
“I can’t say more for legal reasons, but all will be revealed next week,” the manager promised.
The word in Paris is that Studio Canal, 80% shareholder in a joint distribution venture with Bac, is going to bail Labadie out, before severing ties to do its own distribution.
Such a gesture would not be entirely without self-interest. Labadie is due to distribute a handful of Studio Canal titles in coming months, including Daniele Thompson’s Juliette Binoche-Jean Reno starrer “Jet Lag” and Colline Serreau’s “18 Years Later,” a sequel to the original French “Three Men and a Baby.”
Industry rivals say Labadie’s free-spending ways, along with belt-tightening at Canal Plus (which used to be a ready vessel for Bac pics), are to blame for his financial woes.
“He’s a very talented distributor, but he made some major mistakes,” says one industryite.
Those mistakes include sinking millions into unprofitable multiplexes and paying way too much for movies that did not live up to their box office promise — the Will Smith starrer “Ali” and Mel Gibson’s “We Were Soldiers,” to name but two.