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Chinese Conglom Fosun Invests in Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8

UPDATE: Chinese conglomerate Fosun International International has announced in a filing that it will be investing in film production company Studio 8, headed by former Warner Bros. film topper Jeff Robinov.

By bringing on the company as a partner, Robinov will have raised roughly $1 billion in debt and equity, according to an individual with knowledge of the deal. It’s not clear who the other investors are, but the individual said the makeup could include Chinese investors, as well as investors from other countries.

Once the structure is finalized, details will be announced, the individual said.

Fosun’s release did not include the size of the investment. It did say, however, that Fosun will “exercise significant influence” over distribution of Studio 8 films in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan regions. It may work on Chinese co-productions, as well, providing Robinov’s company with entrée into one of the world’s biggest markets for film — one that also enforces a strict quota system when it comes to foreign releases.

The announcement that Fosun had come on board comes amidst reports that Robinov was in discussions with the Huayi Brothers about backing Studio 8. Those talks are over, but the individual with knowledge of the deal said its possible the companies could work together, particularly in a distribution capacity.

Nor does this deal preclude a pact with Sony Pictures. Robinov continues to be in discussions with the studio about a possible distribution pact and investment.

“Through this investment, Fosun plans to bring Hollywood’s advanced and sophisticated film making expertise and technique, movie concept and technology, complete production and publication system to the China market, in order to drive the development of the Chinese film industry and worldwide film growth,” read the release. “Meanwhile, there will be more opportunities to share Chinese elements and stories in Studio 8’s Chinese co-productions.”

Variety reported on Friday that Fosun was in talks with Studio 8.

Fosun is based in Shanghai, where it manages four types of businesses; insurance, direct investment, asset management and industrial operations with monies in steel, mining and pharmaceuticals. Fosun was launched in 1992 by Guo Guangchang, the company’s now-chairman, and three other graduates of Fudan University, a well-known college. The company is listed on Hong Kong’s stock exchange. In April, Fosun International launched a venture capital branch in Silicon Valley, earmarking $100 million to invest in technologically-driven startups. In December, Fosun also bought 6% of Bona Film Group, widely perceived as a direct competitor of the Huayi’s.

In May, Huayi co-chief Wang Zhonglei reiterated plans to invest $120-$150 million in Robinov’s venture. According to a source with knowledge of the deal, Huayi, which is based in Bejiing, had planned to invest $50 million in Studio 8 and syndicate the rest, but was unable to do so.

Sony Pictures is still in the mix to provide Robinov a studio home and to invest $50 million in his new venture if they can agree on terms.

The Huayi Brothers exit was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

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