Relativity Media’s Ryan Kavanaugh is full of surprises. The latest: A fund run by Alphabet (formerly Google) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt — called TomorrowVentures — has agreed to make an unspecified investment in the studio, currently looking to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
TomorrowVentures Managing Partner Court Coursey will now also serve as Relativity’s Chief Investment & Strategy Officer, reporting to CEO Kavanaugh. The studio says he will “work to pursue and drive new business opportunities and partnerships across Relativity’s content businesses, including film, television, sports, digital and music.”
Schmidt’s fund is no stranger to entertainment. Its portfolio includes investments in Legendary Pictures, Maker Studios, and Raine.
“Relativity and Ryan have pioneered a powerful new model at a time when the content business is being revolutionized by technology and changing consumer behavior,” Coursey says. “I look forward to helping Relativity continue to pursue its vision for a new kind of media and content company.”
While the details of that vision remain unclear, Kavanaugh today says that Relativity is preparing for “the next chapter in our evolution as a 360-degree content engine.”
The alliance with Schmidt is the second recent vote of confidence in Relativity from a gold-plated industry name.
Last week Deadline broke the news that the studio acquired Trigger Street Productions and named co-owner, and two-time Oscar-winning actor, Kevin Spacey as chairman of Relativity Studios with his fellow co-owner, producer Dana Brunetti, as president.
The studio recently said it will release The Disappointments Room, Before I Wake, Kidnap, Masterminds and Strangers 2 this year. It also will begin production on The Crow in March.
Having Schmidt and Spacey on board should help reassure potential business and production partners who’ve become wary about Relativity following its bankruptcy. The case has included allegations that Kavanaugh mismanaged the business — including from the firm it hired to manage the restructuring.
Relativity has yet to pay FTI Consulting for its work, saying that it’s investigating possible errors in the firm’s handling of the case. In a filing today at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court FTI calls this “a desperate attempt to continue to delay rightful payment” based on “a convenient and transparent rewriting of history.”
But Coursey has lots of experience dealing with highly charged situations.
He defended himself against fraud charges made by WebMD in 1999 after it bought a company he controlled, Certifiedemail.
Later he persuaded Michael Jackson to make a big investment a now-defunct web site, HollywoodTicket.com, designed to let fans vote on movie-making decisions and participate in contests.
Coursey and a partner also signed a deal to provide the pop star with financial advice. He scrapped it after two months in 2001, and they sued him for $25 million. It was later settled.