Ian Jessel, former Miramax Intl. prexy, is launching an entertainment investment and production venture targeting the fast-evolving Asian industry. Venture, Ambassador Media Partners, comes with starting capital of $75 million.
“Timing for this is very propitious,” Jessel said. “China has been opening up cautiously, but now sees the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games as the moment to become more internationally oriented. We see an opportunity to assist in that process.”
Production finance wing will seek to become involved in film, music, TV and animation projects requiring coin, marketing, sales or distribution.
An early focus will be Chinese and Korean co-productions and remake rights to U.S. and European properties that can be produced in China for the local and international markets.
Ambassador’s private equity investment operation will acquire stakes in content firms and entertainment infrastructure companies with interests ranging from digital distribution to telecommunications, although gaming is a low priority. Ambassador is in advanced negotiations to acquire a stake in a U.S.-based tech company with operations in Korea.
Funding for Ambassador comes largely from Wall Street investment banking, hedge funds and private equity sources. “Our investment capacity as of today is $75 million. That’s money on deposit,” Jessel said. “And we aim to raise matching funding from Korea that could take that to $150 million in a very short while.”
Outfit is run by four partners; financier Bill Yuan, chairman-CEO of L.A.-based Fortress Hill Ventures and former head of Merrill Lynch Asset Management Asia; U.K. property investor and retail manager Tim Kelly; new-media consultant Soyun Son; and Jessel. Company is establishing offices in Seoul, Hong Kong, Beijing, Los Angeles and London.
“The kind of movie we are looking to be involved with are those Chinese films that need an international component, whether it is sales, distribution or talent,” Jessel said. “On the investment side, we will be looking for a broader base.”
Jessel said company’s 50-60 backers are chiefly mid- to large-cap funds, a factor that is likely to make for a production focus on larger films, rather than low-budget fare.
“This is not a U.K. tax fund where people are most interested in the tax credit. Our investors expect a commercial return,” he said.