French fraternity

Tele Images, Marathon unite to form TV titan

PARIS — A $147 million-a-year Gallic TV production powerhouse is poised to come into existence with the teaming of market leaders Tele Images and Marathon.

Churning out 300 hours of programming a year, and with a catalog of 5,000 hours, the company will be France’s second-biggest producer behind Endemol.

Marathon founder Pascal Breton beat Tele Images CEO-founder Simone Halberstadt Harari to the new top slot, prompting the latter to step down.

Breton confirmed to Daily Variety on Wednesday that U.K. pension fund Bridgepoint will take a majority stake in Marathon in a deal that will be finalized over the next three months.

Bridgepoint’s Gallic holding company Finhera already owns Tele Images.

Tele Images’ 60%-owned Adventure Line Prods., producer of top French format export “Fort Boyard,” will be part of the new entity, which probably will have Marathon in its name.

The group will be floated on the stock market in 12-18 months.

“It’s the start of a new adventure that will put French production on the map internationally,” Breton said. “We’ll have the critical mass to make an impact.”

Each of the production companies within the group will continue to have a fair amount of autonomy, including separate international distribution ops, he added.

In 15 years of existence, Marathon has made its mark on the global TV biz with shows such as the long-running soap “St. Tropez,” sold to 120 countries, and hit kids toon skeins “Totally Spies” and “Martin Mystery.”

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