Left Bank eyes potential sale

NBCU, Sony may be potential bidders

LONDON — U.K. drama specialist Left Bank Pictures is gearing up for a potential sale.

The move comes as its 24.9% stockholder BBC Worldwide nears the end of a five-year distribution deal with the company in June.

A price tag of around £40 million ($63.5 million) has been put on Left Bank, highly regarded by its peers thanks to fare like “Strike Back,” produced in cahoots with HBO and Cinemax, “Mad Dogs,” made for BSkyB in the U.K., and a British version of cop saga “Wallander,” commissioned by the BBC.

With U.S. studios continuing to buy up what remains of British indies of scale, Left Bank is a likely target for both NBCUniversal, owners of “Downton Abbey” shingle Carnival, and Sony Pictures Television, which recently bought a majority stake in U.K factual specialist Silver River.

That the U.K. government is poised to introduce tax breaks for high-end locally made drama is likely to make Left Bank particularly attractive to a U.S. purchaser.

Neither Left Bank or BBC Worldwide would comment on a report in the Daily Telegraph that Left Bank had valued itself at about $63.5 million and had hired About Corporate Finance to oversee a sale.

Left Bank was the first U.K. indie that BBC Worldwide took a stake in when the shingle bowed five years ago.

The driving force behind the company is former ITV drama topper and Granada producer Andy Harries, who produced U.K. feature film “The Queen,” an Oscar winner for Helen Mirren.

Were a sale to go through, both Worldwide and Harries could look forward to a handsome profit on their initial investments.

Following the stake in Left Bank, Worldwide has also invested in other U.K. shingles such as Baby Cow Prods., which is part owned by thesp Steve Coogan.

The fact that Left Bank is considering a sale as one of several options does not signify a change in BBC Worldwide’s strategy of making what it insists are selective investments in production companies that ultimately benefits payers of the BBC license fee.