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$3 mil pumped into Dove stock

Media Equities Intl., a newly formed partnership made up of a group of former entertainment executives, has made an equity investment of $3 million in newly issued shares of Dove Entertainment Inc.’s common stock.

Dove Entertainment is the Los Angeles-based book publisher and TV and film production-distribution company run by Michael Viner and his wife, Deborah Raffin.

With their investment, MEI gets approximately 20% of Dove stock, or 1.2 million shares, with about 6.5 million shares outstanding. MEI also will receive a warrant giving it the option to increase its stake in Dove at increasing levels above the current market price. The transaction makes MEI the second-largest stockholder (behind Viner and Raffin) in Dove, whose stock has tumbled to $2.25 from a high of $14.625 a year ago.

The investment in Dove is the first outing for MEI, which includes Apollo Partners’ principals Terence A. Elks and Ken Gorman; HAM Media Group principals John T. Healy and Bruce Maggin; and media investor Ron Lightstone.

“We are pleased and gratified with the confidence this distinguished group of senior entertainment executives has shown in Dove and its management,” Viner said. “We look forward to their contributions as we continue to exploit our leadership in audio books and extend our television production efforts.”

The group of investors brings extensive experience and contacts in the entertainment and financial industries. Elks and Gorman formerly were prexy-CEO and exec VP, respectively, of Viacom Intl. Inc.; while Healy and Maggin formerly served as prexy of Capital Cities/ABC Intl. operations and exec VP and head of the CapCities/ABC Multimedia Group, respectively. Lightstone formerly was CEO of Spelling Entertainment.

This is the group’s first investment together, although Healy & Maggin and Elks & Gorman previously worked together to strike a partnership between Viacom and CapCities/ABC to form the Lifetime network.

The five principals will assist Dove’s management with operations and financial issues. Elks and Healy will join Dove’s board of directors, and Gorman and Maggin will be appointed to the company’s audit committee. Lightstone will advise from Dove’s executive committee.

Viner said there will be no significant changes at Dove, other than “the usual streamlining of operations,” which he said included the building of a media center in its headquarters in the former Writers Guild of America building. Viner said all post-production activities would be moved to the new center, with no layoffs expected.

“We’ll be as aggressive as possible, although there are some priorities we need to take care of,” Maggin said.

He added that the first objective of the group is to improve the marketing of the company’s products. “Dove has an enormously valuable library of films and books, and we want to exploit that in terms of physical distribution and other ways.”

With the completion of documentation and customary provision, the transaction is expected to close March 14.

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