Former IM Global Exec Stuart Ford’s New Venture to Focus on Content

AGC Studios, the new company launched this week by former IM Global executive Stuart Ford, is fashioned specifically for an era where content, not distribution, is king.

Backed by deep-pocketed, international, non-Hollywood investors, the new venture aims to span film, TV, finance and sales, as did IM Global (now merged into Global Road Entertainment). But AGC’s development, production and licensing strategy will be different, departing from a sales-driven model and emphasizing diversified content from the get-go.

“More than ever, we will be a 360-degree content-creation outfit,” Ford told Variety, outlining the areas in which AGC expects to operate: producing syndicated scripted, unscripted and factual TV content; making traditional Hollywood movies; and working multi-nationally. That means involvement in the Latin American, urban, and music scenes, the last of which would span soundtracks and music publishing. “We only dabbled in factual and music while at IM Global,” said Ford.

Another key difference between Ford’s old and new companies is AGC’s intended business partners. Where IM Global focused on mid-budget movies that appealed to indie distributors, AGC expects to broaden that focus and work with streaming companies, studios, broadcasters and overseas media conglomerates. That means less need for overseas sales offices or for a big presence at film markets such as Cannes or the AFM. It also means getting international broadcasters and streaming platforms involved earlier in commissioning and co-creating originals.

“AGC will license and sell, but only where the project demands it. We won’t be so hugely ramping up sales through representation of third party projects,” said Ford. “Foreign distributors will have to come in earlier. Our focus will be on premium content, less on volume.” A small project slate should be unveiled pre-Cannes.

AGC kicks off with financial backing from MediaNet Partners, a Latin American private asset firm with $20 billion under management; Greg Clark, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Symantec CEO and founder and chairman of Fibonacci Films; and Image Nation Abu Dhabi, a leading Middle Eastern entertainment and finance firm.

“A development war chest is part of our initial setup,” said Ford. “And we will be announcing a broader array of content executives, noticeably in the music and Latino segments.”

AGC has already tapped former IM Global CFO Miguel Palos as its chief operating officer. Other appointments are expected to be announced in the next couple of weeks. The speculation is that Ford is trying to put his old team back together, hiring up to a dozen former IM Global staffers. He declined to confirm names or numbers ahead of the staffing announcement.

AGC’s muscular backers give it strength and options at a time of entertainment industry consolidation, but AGC’s finances are expected to evolve over time. “My own predilection is to grow the balance sheet, rather than show immediate impact on the profit and loss statement,” Ford said. “The three partners that we announced have different backgrounds, but they share the appetite to grow AGC. We will definitely focus on capital growth over time.”

That is likely to mean that Ford brings on one or two strategic partners in the next couple of months to lessen the burden of project financing. It could also mean a second round of equity finance to be raised within 18 months.

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