Walnut gets cracking

Tisch, Stewart team on media outlet

Jonathan M. Tisch, chairman-CEO of Loews Hotels, and Jeffrey Stewart today announced the founding of Walnut Hill Media.

The firm’s chief purview will be producing and distributing TV, film and online content, but it will also explore strategic investment.

So far, it has inked a multimillion- dollar pact with Tribeca Enterprises, parent of the eponymous Gotham film fest, and taken a production stake in newly bowed first-run syndicated strip “Family Court With Judge Penny,” which bowed last week with distribution in 80% of the syndie markets.

“Not bad for a business that’s been around for six weeks,” quipped principal backer Tisch.

Stewart, who’ll oversee Walnut’s day-to-day operations as partner and managing director, served as senior veep for communications and public affairs for Loews’ Hotels as well as Tisch’s chief of staff.

Walnut Hill, Tisch said, will concentrate on midrange opportunities: “There are many individuals and many firms that are looking to make investments in the $100 million-plus category, but there are deals out there that fall into the arena that need much less capital.”

The Tribeca deal will not involve film production but will instead concentrate on extending Tribeca Enterprise’s brand. Tisch and Stewart were present at the fest’s creation in their capacity as board members of the New York Rising task force, which sought to reenergize Lower Manhattan commerce in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

“This is a perfect example of the types of deals that we want to do,” Stewart said. “We think capital plus value-add can help them and their company and their brand get to the next level.”

In addition to entertainment skeins, Stewart and Tisch (whose family is part owner of the New York Giants) expressed openness to a sports-broadcasting deal as well as documentary film and branded entertainment. They hinted at further announcements in the coming months.

Walnut’s sole other employee, communications veep Jen Farley, a former communications director for CBS News and Microsoft media strategist, also brings public-sector juice, having served, under the Weber Shandwick shingle, as PR strategist to Bill Clinton.

Tisch will maintain his role in his self-hosted yakker, “Beyond the Boardroom,” airing on lifestyle cable outlet Plum TV, with plans to go nationwide imminently. The entertainment-conglom duties will be entirely separate from his Loews responsibilities.

Before Loews, Stewart had been an assistant attorney general in New York and a senior aide to Sen. Charles Schumer.

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