Upheaval in the French post-production sector that hit at the end of last year has spread to the courts, with media mogul Tarak Ben Ammar suing former partner Technicolor. As part of the suit, bailiffs turned up at Technicolor’s headquarters just outside Paris on Friday to search computers for evidence corroborating Ben Ammar’s claims. Ben Ammar’s Quinta Communications and Technicolor were partnered in Quinta Industries, which essentially owned the entire French post-production sector — including Duran Duboi, Scanlab, SIS and LTC — since 2006. When economic problems hit Quinta Industries, forcing a liquidation in December of last year, Technicolor picked up some of its assets. Ben Ammar alleges that Technicolor allowed Quinta to fail in order to acquire those companies at a bargain basement price — a Quinta rep puts it at less than 1M euros as opposed to the 30M euros they were worth.
According to Quinta, the contract with Technicolor, which owned 17.5% of Quinta Industries, included an option to buy the entire company. It also stipulated that Ben Ammar could not enter into business with Technicolor rival Deluxe. But as Quinta began to encouter difficulties, Technicolor did not provide backing, despite a signed letter from the Ministry of Industry asking Technicolor and Quinta Communications to invest and help save the post outfits. Quinta also contends that the Deluxe clause prohibited Ben Ammar from turning to them as a recourse. Amid the crisis, Technicolor and Deluxe last July announced a strategic agreement under which Technicolor would subcontract its 35mm bulk release printing business to Deluxe in North America and Deluxe would subcontract its 35mm print distribution business in the U.S. to Technicolor.
According to Quinta reps, Technicolor has asserted it had no intention of buying the rest of Quinta Industries. Quinta’s position is that Technicolor engaged in due diligence over 3 years and ultimately acted in bad faith. Also per Quinta, Technicolor has maintained it was not operationally involved in Quinta Industries and that there was no provision prohibiting Quinta from selling to or dealing with Deluxe.
In a statement, Technicolor said the appeals court sent the bailiffs Friday to conduct “a simple documents search based only on Mr Ben Ammar’s allegations without invovling Technicolor in the procedure.” It added that “the acquisition of Quinta Industries assets” was completed in “strict legality within the framework of the judicial liquidation of the company overseen by the Commercial Court.” The company further noted it reserves its right to “assert its rights against Quinta Communications and Mr Ben Ammar by all legal means.”
Quinta’s civil case is now pending, and, as Le Point reported this week, a criminal complaint has also been lodged.