THE DEALMAKER: Anil Ambani may have burst on the Hollywood stage only this year, but he’s been positioning himself to get there for some time.
The second son of Indian industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani, Anil struck out on his own after a very public split with his brother, Mukesh. A detente forged by their mother led to Anil’s departure from Reliance Industries in 2002.
That year, Ambani’s Reliance Communications, of which he’s CEO, took an 81% stake in Bollywood’s Adlabs Cinema. Ambani has made other connections with Indian cinema, including a pact with Hindi film icon Amitabh Bachchan.
Ambani’s father departed from his Sindhi tradition by opening the company to mom-and-pop investors in India. The son took that initiative a step further by going abroad to raise capital. In February, America’s George Soros took a 3% stake for $100 million.
“It is hope … which enabled my father to build, from scratch, one of India’s largest modern enterprises,” says Anil Ambani.
Reliance Communications’ Reliance Entertainment subsid dipped in the Hollywood pool with a 2006 deal with Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park Entertainment.
Yet it wasn’t until 2008 that Reliance aimed for the brass ring: a piece of DreamWorks via a nearly $600 million investment designed to help Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen exit their pact with Paramount.
KEY DEALS: $500 million-$600 million investment in DreamWorks; $1 billion investments in pics in the next 18 months and 69 Indian-sourced movies; purchase of California-based Willow TV, which streams live cricket matches.
DEALMAKER DOS: “We will think bigger, faster, but, most important of all, we will think better, to stay ahead of competition and of our times.”
DEALMAKER DON’TS: “Watch out for three Cs — chamchas (sycophants), chelas (groupies) and cronies.”
TOP DEALMAKERS ENCOUNTERED: Dad, brother Mukesh, George Soros