It’s been a bumpy path recently for U.S. production company Reeves Entertainment, and the future is looking cloudy.
No one is saying for sure that this is the end of the road, but the reported lack of progress in selling the showbiz company responsible for such hits as “Kate & Allie,””Gimme a Break” and “That’s Incredible” is beginning to point in that direction.
While short on recent hits — only the “Home Show” on ABC is still on the air — the company, owned by Britain’s Thames TV, seemed to be in a comeback mode for the 1992-93 season, having sold two prime time hourlong shows, “Covington Cross” (ABC) and “Homicide” (NBC).
But with “Covington Cross” an casualty last year and “Homicide” not on NBC’s fall lineup (although it may return in January ’94), it now looks as if Reeves will be sold to either management or a third party. Indeed, the recent appointment of John Hyde from MCEG Sterling — a division of GE Capital — to represent Thames in anticipation of the shutting down of the company is a clear indication that a decision is imminent.
Reeves president Richard Reisberg confirmed late last month that he was negotiating with Thames to buy Reeves (Daily Variety, April 23). Reisberg said at the time he was in “advanced negotiations with Thames,” but apparently no deal has been worked out yet.
Disposal of Reeves is a condition of the $ 152 million sale of Thames to London-based media conglom Pearson. Thames has already written off the entire value of Reeves, which it bought for $ 100 million in 1989 and which has performed poorly since.
The company’s most notable successes over the years were the sitcom “Kate & Allie,” which ran from 1985 to 1989 on CBS, and “That’s Incredible,” a regularly scheduled prime time series on ABC from 1980 to 1985.
In the offering document that Pearson issued when making the bid for Thames, one of the conditions was that Reeves would not be part of the package and that any disposal would not involve costs that exceeded the likely cost of closure, which is estimated at $ 24 million. Thames has already set aside a sum to cover this.
“Closing down has to be a possibility if none of the other options work out,” said Thames TV Intl.’s managing director Mike Philips. “It’s not an easy decision. We would like to see Reeves continue and for us to have a relationship with it in the foreign sales area.”
Hyde’s appointment was in Pearson’s offering document, in which it was bluntly stated that Thames had retained the services of MCEG in anticipation of closure. Hyde, who has been involved in several high-profile media restructurings and closures, has been at work for 10 days or so, according to Reisberg.
“John was brought in to represent Thames’ and Pearson’s interests,” Reisberg said. “We were informed of his appointment before it happened, and there is no hostility between us. In fact, it makes it much easier for me having him around.”
According to Reisberg, negotiations for the management buyout are still under way. “We’re in discussion. It’s tough, but I always knew it would be. It’s a prize worth going after,” he said.
Time might not be on Reisberg’s side. Although the Pearson offer document has only just been issued, the agreed sale of Thames should be wrapped up by late June or early July.
“Groups that are interested in bidding have a limited time in which to do it, ” agreed Christopher Huggins of London-based investment bank County NatWest, which represents Thames.
Huggins confirmed that no pricetag has been attached to Reeves. “It depends on what liabilities a purchaser is prepared to take on,” he said. ]
Commenting on the difficulty of finding a buyer, Thames’ Philips added: “It’s a high-risk business, (production) deficits are not getting any smaller and the networks are making shorter-term decisions all the time. Unless you can build up a substantial number of episodes of a show, you can be left with heavy, irrecoverable deficits.”