Paris-based EuropaCorp has been struggling financially for months, and is expected to report its 2017-2018 annual revenue Thursday. The company, which posted record losses of $135 million during the last financial year and has a debt load of approximately €230 million ($270 million), has been actively looking for a white knight.
That effort could now be complicated by the rape allegation against Besson, which is currently being investigated by French authorities. A French actress alleges that he assaulted her last Thursday in a Paris hotel.
“This rape accusation is catastrophic,” said a financier familiar with EuropaCorp. “It’s going to delay all the negotiations that were going on, and we fear it’s going to be a case of Weinstein redux with Besson being brought down, and then his company getting sued and going bankrupt.”
Discussions with potential buyers and investors, including Netflix, have not borne fruit, according to a source close to the company. Contacted by Variety, Netflix declined to comment on whether discussions with EuropaCorp or Besson had stopped.
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The company’s main asset is its library, which has an estimated value of €140 million ($164 million) and includes such franchises as “Taken,” “Taxi” and “Transporter.” Besides the library, the other major asset is Besson himself. “If Besson becomes a persona non grata in the industry, the company’s worth will be greatly damaged and it will be very difficult to raise capital or find a buyer,” a financial analyst said.
The company’s library is being held in escrow by EuropaCorp’s primary lender, JP Morgan, along with the company’s other assets. “The risk, if EuropaCorp can’t repay its debt, is to see the lender do a debt-to-equity swap and take over the company,” the analyst said.
Within the last year, EuropaCorp has taken drastic steps to cut costs. It sold off its French TV production unit for €11 million and signaled in December its intention to lay off 22 employees in its French office within the next two years.
Besson’s next directorial effort, “Anna,” a thriller starring Helen Mirren, Cillian Murphy and Luke Evans, is set to be released in the U.S. in October by Lionsgate. The last film he directed, the $180 million “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” grossed $225.8 million worldwide.