The surprise sacking of Babelsberg managing director Gabriela Bacher earlier this month has rekindled speculation that parent company Vivendi Universal is looking to rid itself of the complex.
Bacher’s unceremonious ouster (over what CEO Thierry Potok deemed issues of “mutual trust”) also put a damper on the studio’s 90th anni celebrations last week and clouded the future of at least one Hollywood project.
“I am very disappointed and frustrated at her dismissal,” says Myriad Pictures exec Philip von Alvensleben. With Bacher gone, it remains to be seen whether Myriad will shoot sci-fi thriller “The Tenth Victim” at the studio as planned.
Bacher played a major role in attracting Myriad and its project to Babelsberg, which the studio was set to co-finance.
The studio has never been a top priority for Viv U, however, and the studio’s top post has generally been a thankless job that left many of Bacher’s predecessors frustrated.
Former studio chiefs, including German helmer Volker Schlondorff and Senator Entertainment exec Friedrich-Carl Wachs, never got the corporate support they needed to turn the studio into a real contender.
As part of Viv U’s real estate holdings, Babelsberg hasn’t been on the radar screens of entertainment execs at Canal Plus, Studio Canal or Universal.
Viv U’s tight reins have kept the studio from realizing its full potential, insiders say, adding that a sale would be welcomed by many. The only problem is, there aren’t any likely buyers.
Although an iconic and beloved institution, Studio Babelsberg has remained a money-losing venture since Viv U acquired it in 1992 and committed itself for 10 years. It has, to date, plunked some $400 million into the complex.
But with that contract expiring in December and Viv U looking to rid itself of excess baggage, Bacher’s sacking only fuels speculation that the studio will be sold off.
Viv U is expected to decide on the matter at its Sept. 25 board meeting.