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Tato buys Italian distributor Mikado

Company is also active in production, exhibition

ROME — It’s official: Italo indie shingle Mikado, whose upcoming releases include Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story,” has been sold by media group De Agostini to prominent local entrepreneur Franco Tato.

The 25-year-old Mikado — which besides distribution is also active in production and exhibition — has been struggling in recent years amid Italy’s increasingly tough climate for indie outfits, hard hit by shrinking audiences for arthouse movies, both theatrically and on homevid, and by scarce TV sales.

The long-gestating Mikado sale was announced in a statement from the company Friday.

De Agostini in 2002 had purchased Mikado from founding partners Roberto Cicutto and Luigi Musini in a step-by-step takeover operation concluded in 2007.

Mikado, most recently producer of helmer Luca Guadagnino’s Tilda Swinton starrer “I Am Love,” which unspooled in Venice and Toronto, is reportedly suffering some $40 million in losses.

Tato, known as one of the country’s restructuring experts, is Mikado’s new CEO. He is a former top manager at Olivetti and at publisher Mondadori, but with a bent for the film biz. Tato previously owned a small Rome-based production company called Pixstar.

Under the terms of the agreement, Tato replaces Mikado’s outgoing topper, Alessandro Usai, and will acquire a controlling interest in Mikado by February 2010, while De Agostini will continue to retain a minority stake. No financial details were disclosed.

Among Mikado’s most successful releases over the years are “Raise the Red Lantern,” “The Piano,” “Buena Vista Social Club,” and more recently “La Vie en rose,” “In Bruges,” and “The Class.”

In addition to Mikado’s core distribution business, the company holds a 20% stake in Circuito Cinema, Italy’s nationwide arthouse exhibition loop of 80 theaters and about 200 screens.

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