×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

EuropaCorp Being Circled by Potential Buyers, Investors (EXCLUSIVE)

Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp is being circled by potential buyers and investors as it struggles to climb out from under a mountain of debt. Among the suitors, sources say, is business tycoon Tarak Ben Ammar, a shareholder in The Weinstein Co. and a board member of Vivendi.

Hit by the disappointing performance of last year’s “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” EuropaCorp has directed its primary lender, JP Morgan, to find someone who can inject equity capital into the company as well as restructure and pay a portion of its debt. Several well-informed sources tell Variety that the company urgently needs to find a solid partner by March 30, which marks the end of its financial year. The company’s market capitalization fell to €57.4 million ($70.2 million) as of Thursday, while losses reached €119.9 million ($146.8 million) and its net debt skyrocketed to €230 million ($281.6 million) as of September.

JP Morgan currently holds EuropaCorp’s assets, including its valuable library, in escrow, meaning the assets are frozen until a deal is made, said a French financier close to EuropaCorp. The company has already sold off its French TV production unit for €11 million. In a cost-cutting move announced earlier this week, EuropaCorp signaled its intention to lay off 22 employees.

The Paris-based outfit will host a management presentation next week to outline the company’s strategy and discuss its assets with prospective buyers, a source close to the situation said. Those assets are considerable, including a library worth about €150 million ($184 million), strong franchises like “Taken” and “Transporter,” and Besson himself, who remains a popular and well-connected filmmaker.

Among the potential buyers and investors is Ben Ammar, according to three independent sources. Ben Ammar already owns a 25% stake in Besson’s Cite du Cinema, a mega-studio located on the outskirts of Paris, through his company Quinta Communication. Ben Ammar is interested in acquiring a significant stake in EuropaCorp, though not necessarily a majority share, via his banner Eagle Pictures, Italy’s largest independent distributor, according to a source close to the businessman.

Also said to be interested in buying up or into EuropaCorp is Lionsgate, which is currently working with Besson as a co-producer and distributor for his upcoming thriller “Anna,” starring Helen Mirren. Lionsgate has not responded to requests from Variety for comment.

Meanwhile, France’s TF1 is possibly eyeing some of EuropaCorp’s catalog, according to two French industry sources.

EuropaCorp would prefer to find a shareholder who could plow in at least €100 million, rather than have its assets sold off piecemeal, sources say. Currently, the company’s two biggest shareholders are Besson, with a 31.6% stake, followed by China’s Fundamental Films, which took a 27.9% stake in the company in September 2016 after investing €60 million.

One potential stumbling block for buyers is the small portion of EuropaCorp’s debt held by Vine Alternative Investments at a high interest rate in the range of 15%.

In light of its financial difficulties, EuropaCorp has taken steps to scale back its ambitions and slash its overhead. The banner has vowed to reduce its slate to two to three English-language films and about two French movies a year following the underwhelming performance of “Valerian” and such English-language films as “Shut In,” “The Circle,” and “Miss Sloane,” which failed at the U.S. box office.

The layoff plan announced earlier this week would eliminate 22 of the company’s 79 jobs in France. Former CEO Marc Shmuger exited the company in December, three months after deputy CEO Edouard de Vesinne was ousted. Besson is officially serving as CEO of the company.

More Film

  • Captain Marvel

    Box Office: 'Captain Marvel' Shatters $900 Million Milestone

    Brie Larson’s “Captain Marvel” continues to do heroic business. In its latest box office milestone, the female-fronted superhero tentpole zoomed past $900 million in ticket sales worldwide. “Captain Marvel” brought in a mighty $87 million globally this weekend, including $52 million from international territories. It has now generated $589 million overseas for a global haul [...]

  • Us - Lupita Nyong’o - cr:

    Box Office: Jordan Peele's 'Us' Stuns With $70 Million Opening Weekend

    Talk about scary good. Universal’s “Us,” the second directorial effort from Jordan Peele, pulled off a stunning debut, generating $70 million from 3,741 North American locations. That haul is enough to land it the second-best opening weekend of the year behind just Disney’s “Captain Marvel” ($153 million). The psychological thriller about a family confronted by [...]

  • 'Shazam!' Review: Zachary Levi is Pure

    Film Review: 'Shazam!'

    In “Shazam!,” Zachary Levi brings off something so winning it’s irresistible. He plays a square-jawed, rippling-muscled man of might, with a cheesy Day-Glo lighting bolt affixed to his chest, who projects an insanely wholesome and old-fashioned idea of what a superhero can be. But he’s also playing a breathless teenage kid on the inside, and [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Box Office: 'Us' on Track for Second-Highest Debut of 2019 With $67 Million

    Jordan Peele’s “Us” is on its way to scaring up one of the biggest debuts of 2019, with an estimated $67 million from 3,741 North American locations. Should estimates hold, “Us” will be able to claim several milestones: the highest debut for an original horror movie (the biggest launch for any horror pic goes to [...]

  • NF_D_JGN-D6-2160.cr2

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content