Lionsgate U.K. eyes library, future releases

After months of speculation, Icon U.K. Group is shuttering its U.K. distribution arm with Lionsgate U.K. believed to be in negotiations to buy its library and handle future releases of acquired titles in the territory.

The news comes after Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, which purchased Icon U.K. Group in November 2009, tapped Aviv Giladi as CEO of the company last week in a move expected to herald a shift toward a more production-based business.

According to sources, the remaining 32 employees at the London-based company were told last week that roughly 20 would be axed. Icon U.K. Group is going through a consultation phase to decide which positions to chop.

Additionally, sources said that Lionsgate is expected to purchase the company’s U.K. library, which includes “Drive,” “A Single Man” and “Precious.”

Acquisitions that have yet to be distributed in Blighty include low-budget horror “You’re Next,” which Icon pre-bought for low six-figures from HanWay Films at Cannes.

Coincidentally, Lionsgate picked up U.S. rights for the pic following its preem at Toronto.

For the time being, sources say that the foreign sales arm, headed by Hugo Grumbar, will remain intact but longterm plans are to close that part of the business and focus on production and investment in commercial pics.

This isn’t the first time this year that Icon has axed jobs: In January, Icon laid off 15% of its staffers as part of cost cuts due to the increased pressures facing its U.K. biz. At the time, rumors were circulating that Access had given Grumbar and Ian Dawson, managing director of the U.K. arm, a year to show results or the company would be shut.

In October, Variety revealed that Access had been shopping Icon’s U.K. library to potential buyers following the distrib’s weak performance.

Giladi, who is chairman of Israeli media company R.G.E. Group and a non-executive director on the board of Ealing Studios, is believed to be one of the figures managing the potential sale of Icon’s U.K. library.

Icon refused to comment at the time of going to press while Lionsgate was unavailable for comment.

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