De Agostini also bidding

PARIS — French major Gaumont is said to be among a handful of candidates bidding to acquire the multi-million euro Gallic TV production and distribution powerhouse Marathon from investment fund Bridgepoint.

Others cited as in the running include Italy’s De Agostini, and the equity fund Apax, while Spain’s Televisa was speculated also to have come forward.

Formal bids were placed Tuesday, and Bridgepoint, which holds 70% of the group, and Marathon’s minority owner-managers, who own the other 30% are mulling options. A preliminary deal is expected to be in place before the start of the summer.

Gaumont did not comment Thursday on reports that it is making a play for Marathon, which is on the block soon after European production’s biggest nugget, the Dutch reality giant Endemol, sold to John de Mol and Mediaset.

Marathon Group’s annual revenue is around Euros 120 million ($162 million), not far from Gaumont’s last year, and the company is valued at around Euros 250 million ($332 million).

If a deal with the French major were in the offing, it would be buying back a small piece of its own former empire. One of Marathon’s subsids is Geteve — the former Gaumont TV — which was sold in a management buyout in 1999.

No longer in the TV biz, today film production and distribution are Gaumont’s main activities, while the major holds a large minority stake in the French movie theater chain EuroPalaces, controlled by Pathe.

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