Finch makes Civilian play

Artists Independent Network, the London- and New York-based production/management shingle run by Charles Finch and Luc Roeg, is seeking a merger with Civilian Content, the publicly-listed parent of U.K. lottery franchise The Film Consortium and sales company The Works.

The move has the support of Richard Thompson, Civilian’s founder and largest shareholder with 25%.

AIN has lodged a bid to buy the 22.5% stake owned by Crispin Barker, offering a premium upon the current $1.1 million market value of his stock. The deal is contingent upon the Civilian board agreeing the merger, due diligence on both sides and a vote by all Civilian’s shareholders.

Finch and Roeg launched AIN in early 2000 after they ankled the London office of the William Morris Agency. Reversing their business into Civilian would give them a listing on the Alternative Investment Market, and would fulfill their ambition to hook up with a sales company. The prospect of accessing the Film Consortium’s remaining lotto coin is only an incidental consideration, since the franchise has just 10 months to run of its six-year term.

Thompson, who is no longer on the Civilian board after he stepped down as chairman last December, is championing the deal. He and Finch are already partners in the fashion business — they co-own the Mackintosh coat firm and are bidding together for Harris Tweed.

“The management and current operations of AIN would provide a springboard for Civilian beyond the franchise,” he argues. “The company would become much more of a media company with film interests, rather than just a film company. It’s so difficult in these days to build a company with the headline of film in the public arena.”

The deal would mark a turnaround for Thompson, who was on the verge of sellinig his own stake earlier this year to London Merchant Securities. But that was contingent upon negotiations with the Film Council to extend the franchise, which haven’t come to fruition.

Finch and Roeg would take a leading management role in the merged company, as well as owning a significant block of shares. But Thompson says there would still be room in the expanded business for Civilian’s existing team, including managing director Chris Auty and Works topper Aline Perry.

In its first two and a half years, AIN has exec produced the modest U.K. hit “Mike Bassett: England Manager” and David Cronenberg’s “Spider,” as well as TV series “Model Behaviour.” Upcoming movie projects include “Fat Slags” and “The Romford Matador.”

Management clients include John Malkovich, Gillian Anderson, Samantha Morton, Monica Bellucci and Willem Dafoe. In April, AIN merged with Frank Frattaroli’s Gotham-based shingle Widescreen, whose clients include Frances McDormand and Parker Posey.

The Film Consortium’s current projects include Stephen Fry’s “Bright Young Things” and Michael Winterbottom’s “In Our World.” Loss-making parent Civilian is edging towards break-even after slashing its overheads in the past year.

When the music’s over …

It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with London’s game of musical chairs. Stewart Till finally left the nearly defunct Signpost Films last week, and will start Dec. 9 as chairman of UIP. Peter Rogers, who is ankling as a partner in Cobalt Media Group at the end of the year to open a London office for Lakeshore, has been spotted measuring up Signpost’s swanky Leicester Square digs. Signpost, of course, was effectively scuppered when its majority shareholder CDP switched allegiance to Lakeshore, which is now handling sales on Signpost’s only movie, “Bulletproof Monk.” Now there’s talk of an imminent link-up between Lakeshore and Cobalt.

Meanwhile, Graeme Mason, a former Till lieutenant at Polygram, is helping to shut down FilmFour by Dec. 20. The soon-to-be-vacant Charlotte Street office, complete with screening room, is being eyed up by Mason’s ex-colleague David Kosse as a possible new home for his distrib Momentum Pictures.

So who’s going to be left without a chair when the music stops?

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