Takeover two-step

Kinowelt acquires insolvent Intertainment

German producer-distrib Kinowelt has taken over insolvent distrib Intertainment, which went belly up this year after failing to recoup $122 million in damages from Elie Samaha and Franchise Pictures. Kinowelt acquired just over 50% of Intertainment from former topper Ruediger “Barry” Baeres, who resigned as CEO in 2004.

Kinowelt founder Michael Koelmel said Monday he would pursue Intertainment’s claims against Franchise, adding that he saw “good chances of success.”

In 2004, a U.S. federal court found Samaha and Franchise guilty of defrauding the once high-flying rights trader into paying wildly inflated budgets on a slate of films that included “Get Carter” and “The Whole Nine Yards.”

Intertainment welcomed Kinowelt’s intervention and said it “expects to benefit from the comprehensive know-how of the company in media and film.” Kinowelt will restructure the company, which controls European rights to films such as “Mulholland Falls” and the “Art of War.”

Koelmel said the takeover was “another small step in Kinowelt’s expansion. We will now concentrate on reviving the license business.”

Intertainment’s share price skyrocketed more than 30% to E1.64 ($2.08) Monday on news of the deal. Nearly 41% of Intertainment remains in free float.

Baeres founded Intertainment in 1993 and oversaw its initial public offering in 1999. He later sealed the company’s fate when he partnered with Samaha, agreeing to finance the film slate. Achim Gerlach has headed Intertainment since Baeres stepped down as chief exec to chair the supervisory board, a post he ankled in March.

The sale ends a troubled existence for Intertainment resulting from the Neuer Markt excesses of the late 1990s that laid waste to a slew of German players, including Senator, Helkon and Kinowelt, which rose from the dead after Koelmel and brother Rainer Koelmel salvaged the group’s core assets in 2003.

Company has seen strong growth from its home-entertainment division as well as theatrical pics including “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and “March of the Penguins.” Upcoming releases include “Tristan & Isolde” and “The Sentinel.”

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