Equity players storm Hollywood's gates

JIM KOHLBERG
Est. worth: $1 billion-plus
Home base: Palo Alto, Calif.
Money trail: A managing partner in private equity firm Kohlberg & Co., which he formed in 1987 with his father Jerome Kohlberg Jr., the senior founding partner of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., one of the world’s largest and most successful private equity films.
Biz plans: Made smaller film investments in the past and has now launched Essential Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based financing and global sales company, co-founded with veteran Disney exec Jere Hausfater. “This represents an increase in my participation (in film) and a step-up in budget level,” Kohlberg says. “I want Essential to do for other producers what I would like it to do for me: help finance smart, commercial, large, independent films between $10 million and $40 million.”
Pics: Exec-produced “Forever Fabulous,” “Two Family House,” “Runaway,” “Trumbo” (docu screens in Toronto); Essential is handling international sales on Ed Zwick’s “Defiance.”
Investment ethos: To invest in projects “that make money.” Essential, he adds, makes sense because it “doesn’t require hundreds of millions of dollars to scale up to profitability.”

BEN GOLDHIRSH
Est. worth: $100 million
Home base: Los Angeles/New York
Money trail: Father was the late Bernie Goldhirsh, founder of Inc. magazine.
Biz plans: Reason Pictures, part of the young entrepreneur’s Good brand, focuses on the financing and development of films “at the intersection of entertainment and relevance,” he says, adding that he’s always searching “for projects that hit on a visceral, intellectual and contextual level.”
Pics: “Son of Rambow,” “The Power of the Game”; in development: “The Messenger,” with the Mark Gordon Co.; Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe’s Jerzy Kosinski project; a Nicole Kassell-helmed comedy about the sex workers union; and four docus (Marshall Curry’s “Racing Dreams,” Rebecca Cammisa’s “Which Way Home,” an untitled 2008 election film with Edward Norton, and Alex Gibney’s “Burning Down the House”).
Investment ethos: “I wanted to do something good with these resources,” Goldhirsh recently told Variety. “Media is the dominant variable for affecting change, and Hollywood enjoys a disproportionately high value within the media domain.”

STEVEN RALES
Est. worth: $2.7 billion, according to Forbes, No. 336 on the “World’s Billionaires” list
Home base: Washington, D.C. (Danaher HQ)
Money trail: Together with his brother Mitchell Rales, owns Danaher Corp., a wide-reaching conglomerate focusing on medical and industrial technologies, professional instrumentation and Craftsman hand tools.
Biz plans: Founded in 2006, Rales’ Santa Monica-based company Indian Paintbrush is “committed to producing and financing films with leading and emerging filmmaking talent.”
Pics: Fully financed Alan Ball’s “Nothing Is Private,” co-financed Wes Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Limited” and majority financed Anderson’s animated “The Fantastic Mr. Fox.”
Investment ethos: Notoriously press-shy, Rales is nevertheless highly regarded in the finance and industry worlds, celebrated for his strategy and his discipline.

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