New investors tap into Senator

Dutch group buys 21% stake in German outfit

German producer-distrib Senator Entertainment appears headed for a change of ownership.

Dutch investment group Sapinda Holding, run by German investor Lars Windhorst, has obtained an option to acquire 21.2% of the company by Dec. 20.

Sapinda’s option includes the approximately 17% held by Senator chief exec Helge Sasse, while more than 50% is publicly traded on the German stock exchange, with the rest split up among individual shareholders or shareholding companies.

Sapinda has described the move as a “normal investment without any strategic intention” and said it should not be seen as a signal that the company was expanding into the media sector.

Senator enjoyed a major hit this year with the release of “The King’s Speech,” the Oscar-winning film that grossed $15.5 million in Germany, but it fared worse with David O. Russell’s “The Fighter,” which tanked at the German box office.The Berlin-based group managed to improve its financial base last year, narrowing its net loss from $9.3 million in 2009 to some $700,000, while revenue dropped 5% to $33 million.

The company’s upcoming releases include Steven Silver’s “The Bang Bang Club,” starring Ryan Phillippe; John Wells’ “The Company Men,” with Ben Affleck; and Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine,” starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.

Senator just picked up a slew of titles in Cannes, among them Mike Newell’s “Great Expectations,” an adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic starring Jeremy Irvine, Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes; Tanya Wexler’s romantic comedy “Hysteria,” starring Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal; and Curtis Hanson’s “Mavericks,” with Gerard Butler.

Further acquisitions included Christophe Honore’s Cannes closer “Beloved,” and Gallic laffer “Intouchables” (Untouchable).

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