LONDON — John Malone created a monster.
Between 1999 and 2002, the U.S. media mogul bought 40 service companies including key SoHo post-production outfits Rushes, Todd-AO and St Anne’s Post. The plan behind the massive acquisitions push was to create a post network able to provide end-to-end services. The result was Ascent Media, a global company comprising over 70 facilities with an annual revenue of $538 million.
According to Ascent Media president-CEO Ken Williams, his biggest challenge has been to forge a common business culture from the many previously separate, and often fiercely competitive, facilities. “The integration challenge has been harder than we ever could have imagined.”
Williams feels Ascent is making steady progress — it’s eliminated brand clutter but some of the established services, such as Todd-AO, Soundelux, St. Anne’s Post and Rushes, have retained their names. Williams is quick to refute suggestions that Ascent’s corporate consolidation of boutique operations has alienated some clients. “In fact,” he says, “the back of the curtain infrastructure provided by Ascent has supercharged boutiques.”
Mike Luckwell, chair of trade org U.K. Post, which is jointly funded by the Dept. of Trade and Industry and the U.K. Film Council, concurs, saying, “(Consolidation) can be made to work; there are economies of scale and cross-fertilization (opportunities).”
To Luckwell, the success or failure of merger efforts rests on the ability to retain key personnel. “This is a people business and running these kind of companies takes verve and entrepreneurial skill that is not easily replaced,” he says.
Indeed, in October, Ascent opened a branch of Soundelux with big-budget pics such as “King Arthur” and “Troy” christening the new venture.