French company is for sale

PARIS — Hot on the heels of the sale of Endemol, the race is on to grab another European TV giant. French TV production and distribution power-house Marathon is in play, company sources confirmed Tuesday.

Endemol France topper Stephane Courbit, who made an unsuccessful bid for the Netherlands-based reality giant, is believed to be one of the main candidates to acquire the company, valued at up to Euros 300 million ($405 million), from private equity firm Bridgepoint.

Courbit’s bid would be backed by Italian industrial group de Agostini.

A deal is likely to be in place by July, said a spokesman for Bridgepoint.

Bridgepoint bought Marathon, the producer of long running French export “St Tropez” and the hit toon “Totally Spies,” just two years ago, merging it with Tele Images.

Adventure Line Productions, the company behind international hit format “Fort Boyard,” is another subsid.

Marathon Group’s annual revenue is around Euros 120 million ($162 million), and its EBITDA around Euros 25 million ($33.7million). It produces some 350 hours of programs a year.

At the time of the deal, there was speculation that Bridgepoint might regroup its French TV production interests with those it holds in the UK.

The fund owns production giant All3Media, which has units in the U.K. (Lion TV, North One Television, Bentley Productions, Cactus TV, Mersey Television and Company Pictures), the U.S. (Lion USA), New Zealand (South Pacific Pictures), plus IDTV’s production arms in Germany, Holland and Belgium.

An IPO of Marathon was also in the cards at one point.

However earlier this year at a presentation of the company Marathon execs said Bridgepoint always intended to sell its 70% stake after an agreed period of time.

The remaining 30% of the company is held by toppers Pascal Breton, Nicolas Coppermann and other key managers, with Vincent Chalvon-Demersey and David Michel, animation unit toppers and Denis Mermet, head of Adventure Line, holding substantial minority stakes in their respective subsids.

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