Former Polygram chief acquires distrib company

Former Polygram chief Stewart Till has completed his drawn-out deal to acquire the U.K.-based international sales and distribution operations of Mel Gibson and Bruce Davey’s Icon Group.

The transaction, announced Sunday, comes more than a year after Till first announced plans to buy the Icon assets — consisting of sales company Icon Entertainment Intl. and the Majestic Films & Television library — as part of efforts to build an international distribution network outside the U.S. studios.

The September 2008 announcement said Till’s company, Stadium, with backing from industrialist Len Blavatnik, had agreed to buy Icon’s U.K. assets in a deal that would leave Gibson and Davey continuing to operate their Los Angeles-based production company, Icon Prods.

Sunday’s announcement — which comes a few days before the opening of the American Film Market — said Blavatnik’s U.S.-based industrial group, Access Industries, would buy the Icon operations, which will retain the Icon name. Deal calls for Till to become CEO of Icon U.K. with responsibilities for managing and developing the organization, in addition to being an equity holder in the business.

Sunday’s announcement also said Icon Group retains ownership of the Australian distribution and cinema assets and that Icon U.K. and Icon Australia will continue to acquire territory distribution rights together. It also said Icon Prods. has also entered into a first-look deal with Icon U.K.

“This acquisition is a fantastic first step in our plans to build an international distribution network that will be operational in all the key major territories around the world, including Eastern Europe and Asia,” Till said in a statement.

The deal marks the start of Till’s efforts to rebuild the defunct Euro major Polygram Filmed Entertainment, which was sold by Dutch music company Polygram to Seagram in 1999. Polygram was subsequently merged with the international distribution operations of Universal Studios, then owned by the beverages conglom.

Icon U.K.’s slate includes “Paranormal Activity,” which opened with midnight screenings in Britain over the weekend, along with “The Box,” “A Single Man,” “The Road,” “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” and “Edge of Darkness,” an action-thriller starring Gibson.

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