Appellate court looks into Technicolor records
PARISFrench judicial authorities have begun an investigation into the business affairs of Technicolor, as part of a civil lawsuit lodged by Tarak Ben Ammar against the post-production company, its former associate in Paris-based Quinta Industries. Evidence could also be used in the separate criminal complaint brought against Technicolor. As part of the discovery process, the Appellate Court of Versailles ordered the probe of Technicolor’s French headquarters. Computer files and phone records of execs, including managing director Frederic Rose, were removed on Friday and are now being examined. Quinta Industries, Ben Ammar’s French post-production and visual effects business, went bankrupt in December. Technicolor owned 17.5% of Quinta Industries and was a board member of the company. Once Quinta Industries was placed in bankruptcy, Technicolor made a bid to acquire its key assets, including audio companies Auditorium of Joinville and SIS, plus post-production houses Scanlab and Duboi. The French commercial court greenlit the bid. Ben Ammar, who produced films such as “Black Gold” via his production/distrib powerhouse Quinta Communications, alleges that Technicolor used Quinta Industries to prevent rival post-production group Deluxe from entering the French market. When Technicolor became a shareholder in Quinta Industries in 2006, it forbade Ben Ammar’s company from negotiating with Deluxe. This clause in the contract became crucial as Deluxe could have helped Quinta Industries come out of bankruptcy last year, per Quinta execs. Ben Ammar’s suit claims that Technicolor maneuvered to block the arrival of Deluxe in France, and prompted the downfall of Quinta Industries to buy the company’s assets for a knockdown price. Ben Ammar’s suit also charges that Technicolor declined to acquire more stakes in Quinta Industries in conditions deemed “disloyal.” It claims that Technicolor failed to disclose its plan to launch a post production facility in Gaul, Technicolor Entertainment Services France, and withheld information about its negotiations with Deluxe (which resulted in a pact to allow Deluxe to take over 35mm printing for Technicolor in the U.S. and Canada). Technicolor announced the launch of Technicolor Entertainment Services France earlier this year. Headed by Michel Vaquin, it regroups the bulk of Quinta Industries’ biz as well as a dubbing facility. It also intends to launch an animation studio. The French authorities have not said how long it will take to complete the probe into the case. Technicolor denies any wrongdoing. A spokesman for Technicolor said, “Technicolor insists that the acquisition of Quinta Industries’ assets was completed in strict accordance with the law, following the company’s judicial liquidation by the Commercial Court of Nanterre.” In France, judicial liquidation occures when a company goes bankrupt and is dismantled.