Relativity Media Financing Triggers Public Dispute With Investor

Long-simmering reports of financial strains at Relativity Media broke into the open Friday when the company accused one of its backers of privately badmouthing its economic condition in an attempt to take control of the mini-studio.

Relativity said in a statement that New York-based Colbeck Capital had engaged in a “play…to try to seize control of Relativity by trying to spread false rumors about the state of the company.” Relativity chief executive Ryan Kavanaugh remains “fully in control,” the statement said.

The film and television company also said that Colbeck’s two members on the Relativity board “will be removed from the board next week.”

The New York Post reported early Friday that Kavanaugh needed to raise $200 million by the end of the month and risked losing control of his company. Relativity denied that, issuing a statement that said: “Under Ryan Kavanaugh’s leadership, Relativity has successfully recapitalized its balance sheet by refinancing its existing debt and raising additional capital in the form of debt and equity, and the company is well-positioned for long-term growth.”

Colbeck representatives did not respond to a request for comment. The firm became linked to Relativity Media in 2011, when it was involved in a $200 million loan to Kavanaugh’s company. Also investing in the entertainment outfit at that time was one-time supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, who simultaneously had an investment in Colbeck.

New York-based Colbeck “excels in creating and executing on unique solutions to otherwise intractable capital requirements,” according to the investor’s website. Colbeck said it stays on in an advisory capacity with most of the companies it invests in. It holds two seats on the 12-member Relativity Media board.

While Relativity has television production, sports management and other divisions, it has been best known as a maker of mid-budget films.  The company has produced, distributed or structured financing for more than 200 movies, according to its website. Relativity has had a decidedly mixed track record at the box office. Among its releases are “Oculus,” “Safe Haven,” “Act of Valor” and “The Fighter.”

Kavanaugh and Relativity have long been a subject of fascination in Hollywood. The company has prided itself on investing only in films that analytics show stand a strong chance of box office success. It eschews blockbuster-sized budgets to support adventure, drama and genre pictures. Kavanaugh has long said he makes money by hitting singles and doubles, rather than home runs.

Relativity released eight films last year and five were profitable, according to an individual close to the company. Its top domestic grosser, “Earth to Echo,” took in $45 million worldwide on an estimated production budget of $13 million, while “3 Days to Kill,” brought home $52.6 million on a $28 million budget.

Sources have reported that the company was pressed for cash and was making the rounds earlier this year trying to obtain financing from hedge funds and investors. An individual close to the company disputed that description and said the entreaties for new investment were designed to plump up Relativity’s balance sheet in preparation for an IPO of company stock in 2016.

Kavanaugh’s firm announced in April that it had obtained $250 million in funding from VII Peaks Capital, a San Francisco-based investment management firm that is not a regular player in Hollywood. An individual familiar with Relativity said VII Peaks led a “consortium of companies” that delivered the $250 million infusion.

Key investor Burkle has stood by Kavanaugh and Relativity as rumors have swirled. “We have been very pleased with Ryan’s management and the way the company has been run,” said an individual close to Burkle. “We are excited about the company in every way.”

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