Dick Cook Studios Launches with $150 Million Chinese Investment

Former Disney chairman Dick Cook is launching Dick Cook Studios with a $150 million investment from Citic Guoan Group Co. Ltd., a division of the state-owned Chinese conglomerate Citic Group.

Listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Citic is China’s largest conglomerate. It had assets under management of US$967 billion (HK$5,948 billion) at the end of 2014, and equity attributable to ordinary shareholders of US$68 billion (HK$418 billion).

“I am thrilled to formally announce the launch of Dick Cook Studios,” Cook said. “Our mission will always be to provide the very best in family entertainment inclusive of all generations, which inspires, engages, excites and always contributes positively not only to our communities but to the world at large. We will have many more announcements in the coming weeks and months as our long standing plans come together.”

Cook was chairman of the Walt Disney Studios from 2002 to 2009. The announcement noted that during his tenure, Disney released 60 films that grossed more than $100 million each domestically. Cook oversaw the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “National Treasure” franchises, as well as “The Incredibles” and “Finding Nemo.”

But after working for Disney for nearly 40 years, Cook was ousted as studio chief in 2009. He had been struggling for the past five years  to raise $1 billion to create his own family-friendly film studio, complete with development, production, distribution, marketing and advertising divisions.

Other than serving on the board of Legendary Pictures since 2011 and executive producing the 2013 Jackie Robinson biopic “42,” he has kept a low profile since leaving Disney six years ago. He sits on the board of governors for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, where he currently serves as Treasurer of the Academy, as well as chairman of the board for KCET Public Television.

The announcement was made late Sunday night in Los Angeles and Monday at the ongoing Beijing Film Market. It described the new studio as “a creative content company focusing exclusively on the development, production, marketing and distribution of multi-generational family entertainment including live-action and animated motion pictures, television, digital, educational media, stage and other themed entertainment among other avenues.”

CITIC Guoan chairman Li Shilin said: “With Mr. Cook and his highly respected team, we are guaranteed that every segment of our cooperation will be of the highest standards. They appreciate and understand traditional Chinese culture, and they look forward to telling Chinese stories that will play to families across the globe. We both believe that cultural works in spreading love and positive energy is the world’s eternal theme.”

Last month Citic announced the establishment of a $500 million fund with Australia’s Village Roadshow. The fund is intended to back development of theme parks in Asia.

Cook’s  deal is the latest in a growing list of U.S. studios and production companies that are tapping into Chinese investment. The two most recent came a month ago with STX Entertainment securing a three-year deal to produce 18 films with China’s Huayi Brothers Media and Hunan TV closing a deal to invest $375 million in Lionsgate’s movie slate over three years.

China’s Fosun last year agreed to make a $200 million investment in Jeff Robinov’s Sony-based Studio 8 production company. And in 2012, Dalian Wanda Group bought AMC Theatres for $2.6 billion.


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