UPDATED: After a decade, producer Mark Gordon is parting ways with ABC Studios. Gordon has set up the next chapter for his Mark Gordon Company, partnering with Entertainment One to create an independent studio that will finance and produce film, network, cable, and digital content, which eOne will distribute internationally. Gordon will serve as Chief Executive Officer of the venture, which will finance projects produced by him as well as other producers.
Under the agreement, eOne is taking a 51% stake in The Mark Gordon Co. to the tune of almost $133 million and with an option to acquire the remaining 49% in seven years. The studio will remain based is Los Angeles where MGC has been operating. The entire staff of the MGC will remain in place. Following a model used by eOne and other indies, including MRC, the venture’s founding principle is listed as “maximizing artists’ creative freedom, while giving them a meaningful stake in their product.”
“We had a great run at ABC, they have been great partners,” Gordon said. “Part of the difference is that we are becoming a studio as opposed to being just producers. In order to realize the true value of our content, retention of rights ownership and control of international distribution are musts. In eOne, we have found partners that share our vision of supporting the creators and are immersed in the international marketplace with great ambitions to expand in the U.S. Together, we are building an alternative to the traditional studio way.”
As an indie, eOne has been largely following the direct-to-series model, using international pre-sales to deficit finance its projects. In the new venture, “we will be doing all sorts of financing — we will be making pilots for networks, we will go direct-to-series on some projects, anything and everything will be available to the talent.”
The Mark Gordon Co. is the latest company of a non-writing producer to take the indie route. McG’s Wonderland Sound and Vision took the plunge in 2013 after a long stint at Warner Bros. TV in a funding partnership with Mickey Liddell’s private equity-backed LD Entertainment. And Marty Adelstein recently launched a joint venture with ITV Studios US after a long tenure at 20th TV.
Gordon most recently re-upped with ABC Studios in early 2011 when he signed a new four-year agreement with parent Disney that included another overall pact at ABC Studios as well as a first-look deal in features. Back when the rich pact was inked, Gordon had five series on the air for ABC Studios, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, CBS’ Criminal Minds and Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, as well as Lifetime’s Army Wives. The company continues to produce Grey’s and Criminal Minds as well as freshman USA Network comedy Benched. (Outside of the ABC Studios deal, Gordon executive produces the Showtime drama series Ray Donovan). No MGC movies were greenlighted at Disney over the past four years but the company has two projects in pre-production at other studios, the Steve Jobs biopic, which recently moved from Sony to Universal, and comedy Arms and the Dudes starring Jonah Hill, set up at Warner Bros.
Rumblings started in November that Disney and Gordon may be parting ways. Gordon said that he had been exploring potential new partnerships for the past nine months, entering conversations with a number of people. He met with eOne a few months ago, and “it was a fairly quick process” after that, he said.
MGC still has some time left on the ABC Studios deal, and eOne acquiring a majority stake in the company does not preclude it from completing the overall pact. MGC has a number of TV projects that were set up this past pitch season. The company will continue to work on any of its ABCS-based scripts that are picked up to pilot as well as its ongoing series there.