Constantin forges ahead with ‘Perfume’

Topper Eichinger, scribe Birkin adapting Suskind tome

BERLIN — The management of German producer Constantin Film is facing an uphill struggle in its efforts to stave off a takeover by Swiss distrib Highlight but remains adamant that slated projects are not in danger.

Despite reports to the contrary, Constantin insists the takeover attempt has not impacted the production of “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,” which it says is going ahead as planned.

Constantin founder Bernd Eichinger and writer/director Andrew Birkin, who co-wrote Eichinger’s 1986 production “The Name of the Rose” and more recently Luc Besson’s “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc,” are co-writing the screenplay based on Patrick Suskind’s novel of the same name.

Highlight, which appears to be more fiscally conservative and risk-averse than Constantin, is said to be wary of the potentially pricey film project, about an odorless 18th-century Frenchman driven to murder by his obsession with smell.

Constantin’s board of supervisors recently greenlit the $10 million acquisition of the film rights from Eichinger. Bernhard Burgener, Highlight CEO and at the moment the only Highlight rep on Constantin’s supervisory board, reportedly cast the only vote against the purchase.

There is no director currently attached to the film.

Constantin’s management has been reviewing all available options in order to keep Highlight at bay but there appears to be little the company can do to stop the buyout, aside from finding a friendly investor of its own.

Highlight purchased a minority stake in Constantin last month from TV license trader EM.TV, boosting its total holding in the group to 41%. It’s now in the process of making an offer to Constantin’s minority shareholders for the rest of the company stock.

A cooperative solution is still possible, but that would necessitate a promise from Highlight that Constantin’s corporate strategy would remain its own.

Highlight exec Marco Syfrig says the company is looking for a friendly solution and Constantin’s independence is implicit in that aim.

Another potential move that may not sit well with Constantin’s new overlords is the possible acquisition of Kirch Media Entertainment.

The TV production company, which specializes in TV formats, is a subsidiary of the insolvent TV giant Kirch Media and 26% owned by former Kirch Media exec and new Constantin CEO Fred Kogel.

KME is one of the few Kirch Media assets not being picked up by Haim Saban in his takeover of the group’s core businesses. Highlight, which is likely to boost its presence on Constantin’s supervisory board following its takeover, doesn’t appear too excited about the idea, however.

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