Homevid indie gets new owner

Image Entertainment, a large homevid indie that has been in play for the past three years, has found a new owner.

Nyx Acquisitions, a subsid of San Francisco-based Q Black Media, has agreed to pay $100 million to acquire the publicly traded company and take it private. Under the deal, expected to close by January at the earliest, Image shareholders will receive $2.75 per share, a significant premium over the 69¢ closing price on Thursday.

The deal seemingly puts an end to several years of uncertainty for the Chatsworth company, which fended off a hostile takeover bid by Lionsgate in 2005, then entered into a merger with David Bergstein’s BTP Acquisition Co. that fell apart earlier this year.

Q Media topper Joe Bretz got to know Image when it picked up Rob Schneider movie “The Chosen One” and eventually began talking with execs about a possible takeover. According to Image chief financial officer Jeff Framer, negotiations began in earnest during late summer.

Although shareholders still need to approve the deal, Image has pledged approval from stockholders owning some 38% of outstanding shares.

Both parties are interested in expanding Image’s productions, a key factor for Image, which fought off Lionsgate’s bid in large part because the mini-major was expected to scale back such initiatives. Even before the Lionsgate bid, Image had been trying to ramp up its theatrical film initiatives; it inked a deal with Relativity Media at one point, but that accord, like the one with BTP, fizzled, although Image continues to distribute Capitol Films productions on homevid.

The company recently made a few high-profile buys at AFM, including “Management,” starring Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn, and “In the Electric Mist,” starring Tommy Lee Jones, with theatrical releases expected for both.

Bretz pledged that Image will continue to acquire high-profile programming and develop original content under his ownership. Q Black specializes in new media but has also backed indie productions, including two other pics with Schneider.

There are no immediate plans to replace Image management, headed by prexy David Borshell. Bretz lauded Image’s performance in recent months, calling it “one of those companies that gets stronger in the face of adversity.”

The company, which has 140 employees, has in the past generated around $100 million in annual revenue, although Framer said the company expects to bring in more this year due to its theatrical initiatives.

Chair Marty Greenwald, who helped found the company more than 20 years ago before stepping down as chief exec earlier this year, said he was elated by the deal and the new owner’s commitment to Image’s vision.

Image originally specialized in laserdisc distribution and then reinvented itself during the DVD era, building a quirky library of 3,500 titles and 370 CD titles and venturing into its own productions. After building a strong niche in music and comedy concerts, it began to target theatrical productions as a way of attracting shareholder attention.

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