Stuart Ford’s sales-finance outfit IM Global is being majority acquired from India’s Reliance Group by Chinese media group Tang Media Partners. The news would mark the latest investment from China into the film business.
Ford’s company, a mainstay of film markets since the former Miramax exec launched it in 2007, has always had a global outlook. That approach only grew once Indian media group Reliance acquired a majority stake in the company in 2010. Tang Media Group, headed up by Donald Tang and backed by Chinese internet giant Tencent, is a relatively young company. In addition to the acquisition of the company, Tang is also partnering with Ford in a parallel transaction to launch a TV joint venture with Tencent to produce and distribute television content. The TV venture will operate under the existing IM Global TV banner.
It is believed the two deals are worth in the region of $200 million.
Ford and Reliance will retain minority stakes in both companies moving forward. Ford had been busily building up the company in recent years in anticipation of either an IPO or sale. The latter gives IM Global a capital injection and deep-pocketed backing moving forward, along with entry in a strategically important territory such as China. In recent months alone, IM Global had launched a management company and a TV division to go along with the other strands of its business including Mundial, its Latino film sales and financing joint venture with Canana Films. IM Global also handled Reliance’s Indian content internationally, as well as had an output deal with Huayi Bros to handle international sales on their Chinese films including local hot title The Mermaid.
IM Global already has a Beijing office and Ford will continue as chief exec for the foreseeable future after signing a multi-year employment deal. Donald Tang will assume the position of executive chairman of the IM Global board. IM Global TV president Mark Stern is anticipated to continue in his role.
Tang Media Partners is based in Los Angeles and Shanghai. The company is already active in the development, financing, production and distribution of content for both Chinese and international markets. Tang was previously chairman and chief exec of Bear Stearns Asia. TMP’s backers are reported to include Tencent, Huayi Brothers, Sequoia Capital and China Media Capital.
“These are landmark deals for our company,” said Ford. “In addition to injecting significant growth capital into our fast-growing film and television operations, this puts us in business with one of the most seasoned and respected entrepreneurs on the Hollywood-China axis in Donald Tang. We couldn’t be more excited at the prospect of working in both the U.S. and in China with TMP, Tencent and Reliance to continue expanding IM Global’s worldwide platform into a next generation global content creation and rights licensing studio.”