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H’w’d group takes stake in Senator

Shares soared 20% Thursday on news of deal

An American-Teutonic investment group, headed by Hollywood-based producer Marco Weber and German media industry veteran Helge Sasse, has bought a 50.1% share in bankrupt Berlin-based Senator Entertainment from Deutsche Bank.

The parties declined to provide details of the deal, saying further information would be available once the producer-distrib was out of insolvency.

However, Senator shares soared 20% to E1.69 ($2.03) Thursday on news of the deal. That share price gives Senator a market capitalization of $35.2 million.

Deutsche Bank and a group of investors took over Senator in 2004 in a $204 million debt buyout from a consortium of creditors headed by Bayerische Landesbank. They will continue to hold a 30% stake.

Weber and Sasse, who head the HSW consortium, are expected to make an offer to minority shareholders for outstanding shares.

“We are very confident that Senator has a new and grand future before it as a leading independent film production house and distributor,” Weber and Sasse said in a statement.

Weber heads up Atlantic Streamline, a financing and production company that turns out films with low to midrange budgets.

He produced “The Thirteenth Floor” and Burr Steers’ 2002 indie pic “Igby Goes Down,” and is producing “The Physician,” based on Noah Gordon’s bestseller. He recently completed production on “Butterfly — A Grimm Love Story,” starring Keri Russell.

Sasse, a media lawyer, was one of the founders of German music web Viva and was involved in its sale in 2004 to Viacom, where it was swallowed by MTV.

A number of bidders had been eying Senator, including fellow producer-distrib Kinowelt. Senator subsid X Filme and Constantin Film had expressed interest in a bid.

In 2003, Senator had major hits with “The Miracle of Bern” and “Good Bye, Lenin!,” the latter produced and released by X Filme.

Senator recently released Richard Eyre’s Elizabethan drama “Stage Beauty,” starring Billy Crudup and Claire Danes. It will release French foreign-language Oscar candidate “Merry Christmas!,” which it co-produced, Nov. 24.

(Pamela McClintock in Hollywood contributed to this report.)

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