Studios circle Constantin

Producer/distrib is for sale

The studios are circling Constantin Film. Rumor has been rife in recent months that the Teuton shingle, home to uber-producer Bernd Eichinger (“Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,” “Downfall”), is for sale, with Universal said to be the latest suitor.

Universal execs were remaining tight-lipped about the matter.

“The rumors are all over the place but it’s all speculation,” said one Universal exec, who insisted on anonymity.

Variety understands from sources that Universal were granted an exclusive period in which to negotiate a deal, but that this has since expired with no sale inked. Universal execs would neither confirm nor deny this.

Other sources state that Paramount also took a close look at Constantin, although Par execs flatly denied this when asked by Variety.

Execs at Highlight and Constantin were unavailable for comment.

A sale of Munich-based Constantin has been in the cards since September last year following EM.Sport’s acquisition of a 25.1% stake in Constantin’s parent Highlight Communications.

Having made the licensing, production and broadcast of sports its core business, EM.Sport (formerly known as EM.TV) was more than eager to link up with Highlight, which manages the hugely popular UEFA Champions League soccer competition.

The acquisition of the Highlight stake repped the start of a strengthening relationship between EM.Sport and Leo Kirch, the media mogul and Highlight shareholder who holds Germany soccer rights for 2009-15. EM.Sport will likely play a role in exploiting those rights.

While EM.Sport topper Werner Klatten has said Constantin will remain part of an EM.Sport-Highlight union, EM.Sport is selling its kids’ programming distribution and production unit EM.Entertainment, which illustrates its increasing focus on sports rights and its desire to jettison non-core businesses.

A further sign of flux was last month’s surprise departure of Thomas Friedl, Constantin’s head of distribution, who ankled after 18 years to join RTL Group’s newly launched production and distribution group UFA Cinema.

Although Constantin remains Germany’s leading independent producer-distrib, its star has waned recently.

The company underperformed at the box office last year. Its lineup, which included local hits like the animated feature “Lissi” and romantic comedy “Warum Maenner nicht zuhoeren und Frauen schlecht einparken” (Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps), failed to match the box office success of 2006 hits “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,” “Hui-Buh: The Goofy Ghost” and “Elementary Particles.”