Three contenders circle distribution company

As the bidding over Miramax continues to make headlines, the sale of Overture Films is quietly moving forward.

A handful of suitors began circling in late January, with that pool now narrowed to at least three contenders, according to insiders.

Overture declined to comment.

Overture toppers Chris McGurk and Danny Rosett began their push for a management-friendly buyout after it was revealed that parent company Liberty Media wanted to shed or refinance Starz Media, the production and distribution division within Starz LLC that includes Overture, homevid company Anchor Bay, Film Roman animation studio and Starz Animation.

Pricetag for the properties is roughly $225 million.

The drive to sell off Starz Media comes as Chris Albrecht puts his stamp on the Starz businesses as prexy-CEO. His chief mandate is to make the Starz pay cabler a player in the original programming arena. The former HBO chief took the reins of Starz in January.

One of the parties that has shown interest in McGurk and Rosett’s plan are brothers Alec and Tom Gores, who also are bidding for Miramax.

If Miramax is reclaimed by Harvey and Bob Weinstein with financing from billionaire Ron Burkle and others, it’s not clear what impact that would have on the Gores’ interest in Starz Media, if any.

Only three years old, Overture hasn’t amassed a substantial library, so the addition of an asset like Miramax would have made sense. Library titles could be distributed through Anchor Bay.

There are also reports that a buyer might combine other assets with Overture, such as a foreign sales company or another library.

Though no one in the film biz wants to see another distributor go out of business, there are serious questions as to whether a buyer will come through, considering the downturn in the independent marketplace. But the opportunity to buy a U.S. distribution company could be enough to stoke buyer interest.

One factor in McGurk and Rosett’s favor is Overture’s lucrative pay TV deal with the Starz channels, which will apparently remain in place even should Starz Media leave the fold.

The Anchor Bay homevid distribution operation could also be is an attractive component for prospective buyers.

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