After more than eight months of negotiations, Luc Besson’s Paris-based company EuropaCorp has finally reached a deal with its junior lender, the New York fund Vine Alternative Investments. The pact was approved unanimously by all members of EuropaCorp’s board.
The company, which is listed on the Paris stock exchange, was placed under a debt waiver by the French commercial court last May. The waiver was recently extended to allow EuropaCorp to complete its restructuring plan.
Vine will give EuropaCorp a new credit line of $100 million to bring the company back on track and allow it to develop a slate of films and start producing again. The company will be producing/distributing two English-language films and one French-language film per year. It will also be producing or co-producing English-language series. The outfit will be doing distribution in France, but not in the U.S. as it did in the past.
EuropaCorp hasn’t had a film in production in about two years. Besson will continue making films for EuropaCorp and will remain at the company as artistic director with a five-year contract renewable for another two years.
The helmer’s last film “Anna” grossed about $31 million worldwide, but he has delivered some of France’s highest-grossing film exports, notably “The Fifth Element,” “The Professional,” “Lucy” and “Taken.”
As part of the deal, Vine Alternative Investments will now own a 60.15% stake in EuropaCorp, whose library includes franchises such as “Taken,” “Transporter,” as well as “Lucy” with Scarlett Johansson, and the science-fiction movie “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” Vine already has a controlling stake in Village Roadshow Entertainment Group.
Under the pact unveiled today, which was agreed upon by all members of EuropaCorp’s board, the stakes of Besson’s holding company Frontline (previously 38%) will be diluted to 10.6%, while China’s Fundamental, which previously held a 28% stake, will remain in the company with a 9.36% stake. Falcon Strategic Partners IV will own a 6.29% stake.
“Vine was eager to have EuropaCorp’s shareholders remain in the company, especially Besson, so they came in with a 60% when they could have owned 100% since they are converting the debt into equity,” a source close to the company told Variety. The debt converted into equity is in the range of €180 million.
Under the terms of the pact, EuropaCorp will have to repay a credit loan of €85.6 million ($94.4 million) to a banking pool comprising French and American lending institutions, including JP Morgan, over seven years.
Besson is still being investigated by a French judge for the rape allegations filed by the French-Belgian actress Sand Van Roy in 2018. The Paris prosecutor had previously dismissed the rape complaint citing a lack of evidence but the case was reopened by a judge in October after Van Roy filed a new complaint.