Variety first broke the news that the merchant bank was putting more than $100 million into the production company behind “Apollo 13,” “A Beautiful Mind,” and “The Da Vinci Code.” Imagine did not confirm the size of the investment beyond dubbing it “significant.”
Imagine is headed up by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard. The investment comes as other top-shelf production companies, among them Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners, are on the prowl for new financial partners who will give them the capital to compete in a changing movie and media business.
“The ways in which content is created and consumed are transforming faster than ever before, expanding in directions that hadn’t been conceived even a few years ago,” Grazer said in a statement. “The opportunity to extend Imagine’s reach across this expanding landscape is a driving force for us.”
In addition to television and film production, Imagine said it will use the money to expand into branded content, location based entertainment and digital technology.
Imagine said it will weigh acquisitions, with Howard saying in a statement that the investment “…allows us to build upon our creative relationships to broaden our reach into all narrative formats and platforms.”
The Raine investment in Imagine may alter the company’s three-decade long production and distribution deal with Universal Pictures, which ends this year. Sources say that Imagine could move its film deal to 20th Century Fox, which has been the studio home for 16 years of Imagine’s television offerings.
Past Raine investments in the media space include Vice Media, “South Park” duo Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s Important Studios, action sports company Nitro Circus and fantasy sports company Draft Kings. Additional strategic co-investors brought in by Raine include China Media Capital, the Antenna Group and WPP.
The head of Raine’s entertainment group, Erik Hodge, described the bank’s long-time admiration for “master storytellers” Howard and Grazer. “We are excited to invest in and partner with Imagine as they expand their many successful franchises across new mediums.” Hodge said. Raine co founder Joe Ravitch added that the funder “built our business on the principle that content and creators are the most valuable elements in today’s media ecosystem.” Both Hodge and Ravitch will join Imagine’s board.
Raine has been increasingly active in the entertainment space — most recently helping arrange Perfect World of China’s $500 million, five year film slate investment with Universal Pictures.
Skip Brittenham and Cliff Gilbert-Lurie of Ziffren Brittenham LLP represented Imagine Entertainment in the investment deal while Neil Whorisky of Cleary Gottlieb acted as legal counsel to Raine. Also representing Imagine were Jeffrey B. Samuels and Ariel J. Deckelbaum from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.
James Rainey contributed to this story.