Union Bank plans Escape

$250 mil provided for Sony-based prod'n co.

In a move signaling expansion rather than retrenchment, Union Bank of California and Newmarket Group have agreed to provide up to $250 million in production financing for Escape Artists, the Sony-based production company managed by Steve Tisch, Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal and David Alper.

UBOC has also upped Christine Ball to senior VP and manager of the entertainment finance division and made Douglas Hansen senior VP, with oversight of the division’s corporate finances.

Moves come on the heels of the departure of several entertainment lenders including UBOC head of entertainment finance Joseph Woolf, who ankled in March for personal reasons.

The defection had led to speculation that UBOC was about to cut entertainment lending, something that was denied by Grant Ahearn, exec VP of the commercial financial services group.

“We have been and will continue to be active in arranging debt facilities and providing other corporate finance products and services for our respected and valued entertainment clients,” he stressed.

Film funds

The bank also greenlit other major entertainment financing transactions in addition to the $250 million for Escape Artists, a company formed in association with Patrick Wachsberger’s Summit Entertainment. It announced that the $200 million Mutual Film facility agented by UBOC is being amended to add films from a new partnership between Gary Levinsohn and Don Granger, who are based at Paramount.

These films are in addition to the existing agreement to finance films developed or acquired by Mutual Film. The company’s strategic partners are the BBC, Japan’s Toho-Towa and Germany’s Tele Munchen.

In April, UBOC completed the syndication of credit facilities representing over $200 million in production financing for Intermedia Medien and Film 2 (IMF2), a Munich-based film fund that has produced 11 films (eight of which were agented and underwritten by Union Bank of California) since 1997. IMF films include Columbia Pictures’ “The Wedding Planner” and USA Films’ “Nurse Betty.”

On the Ball

Ahearn praised Ball’s “knowledge of entertainment and media corporate finance” and “extensive capital markets experience,” which he said reflected “our continuing goal to provide superior service for our entertainment clients.”

Ball comes to the Entertainment Finance Group from UBOC’s syndications group, where she was senior VP and manager, with responsibility for syndicating the senior loan product across all industry sectors within Union Bank of California. Before that, she was senior VP and team leader in the communications/media division of Union Bank of California.

Hansen, who’s been with UBOC for two years, is managing director, corporate finance, providing advisory services for clients and structuring international co-production and co-financing strategies for the bank financing market.

Hansen came to the bank from French-based Banque Paribas, where he was manager of the Entertainment Finance Group for more than eight years.