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Relativity Media Claims Lifeline From Obscure Maple Leaf Films

The latest company to reportedly throw a financial lifeline to bankrupt Relativity Media is an obscure offshoot of a Canadian investment firm. Previously a funder of three small, little-known pictures, Maple Leaf Films was introduced this week as a partner that will provide $400 million in “equity film financing” to Relativity, the troubled company that filed for Chapter 11 protection last July.

A day after Relativity introduced Maple Leaf as the most recent in a long string of potential financial allies (many of which failed to materialize), the profile of the new financier remained obscure. Its principals did not respond to requests for comment, and it could not be determined how the reported $400 million investment relates to Relativity’s ongoing attempts to extricate itself from bankruptcy.

Relativity goes before a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in New York on Friday morning with an appeal to be allowed to emerge from the court’s protection. Judge Michael Wiles will have to determine whether the entertainment company, founded by Ryan Kavanaugh, has done enough to show that it has adequate funding and appropriate management to go forward, without the need for another reorganization or bankruptcy filing.

Relativity had once pledged to raise $100 million in new equity, then said it could get by with a new infusion of just $20 million. Its latest filings with the bankruptcy court suggest its key financing to exit from Chapter 11 will come in the form of two loans, totaling $75 million, from Relativity Media partner Joe Nicholas and from Midcap Financial Trust. Maple Leaf is not mentioned in the court filings.

The company plans to go ahead with producer Dana Brunetti as head of its film studio, but without Brunetti’s long-time business partner, Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey, who reported that he is too busy with other ventures to join Kavanaugh’s company.

But Maple Leaf and its relevance to the bankruptcy proceeding did not appear to be mentioned in any filings with the bankruptcy court. The company was described in a Relativity press release as part of the Maple Leaf Capital Group of companies, which reportedly focus on hedge funds, real estate and film finance through offices in London, Hong Kong and Los Angeles.

Although the press release said the company began its producing and film financing activities in 2005, it has limited credits. The company backed the film “Standoff,” starring Laurence Fishburne as an assassin who is after a 12-year-old witness to a murder. Released in February, it received a 36 Metacritic score from a handful of reviewers.

Maple Leaf also helped fund the upcoming “The Tank,” to be distributed by Open Road Films, about a simulated trip to Mars that ends in catastrophic failure, and “Hunter’s Prayer,” starring Sam Worthington and Odeya Rush, about an assassin helping a young woman avenge her family’s death.

The Relativity announcement names Michael Wexler and Tove Christensen as principals in Maple Leaf Films, though it does not describe their exact roles. The pair did not respond to an email query.

A bio on the Maple Leaf Capital website says Wexler co-founded the parent company in 2002. He previously worked at Credit Suisse First Boston in London, establishing and managing the single stock derivative trading group. Prior to that he was involved in currency derivative trading for Citibank, the website says. He graduated with distinction from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in 1993.

Christensen is the brother of “Star Wars” actor Hayden Christensen. The pair partnered on a production company called Glacier Films.

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