In a deal that was mooted earlier this month, China’s Recon Holding has reached an agreement to acquire a majority stake in Millennium Films. Tony Xia’s Beijing-based Recon, part of the Recon Group which also owns the Aston Villa Football Club, is taking a 51% share for $100M in the company that’s known for such franchises as The Expendables and Rambo. Recon retains the opportunity to acquire the remaining 49% in the future.
Under the terms of the deal — yet another example of Hollywood cozying up to China — Recon Holding will acquire the majority ownership interest which also includes its nearly 300-film library. Avi Lerner will act as CEO of Millennium Films, while Trevor Short will serve as COO. Xia becomes Chairman of Millennium Films.
Millennium was founded in 1996, a spin-off of Nu Image, which Lerner launched years earlier and began building with his brother Danny Lerner. From small beginnings at the AFM with home entertainment titles, the company grew as it moved more mainstream and began packaging films with name talent.
Millennium is an already known brand to Chinese moviegoers thanks to The Expendables series. Those films’ co-star Jason Statham is also a big draw in China where Millennium’s Mechanic: Resurrection last year was a muscular hit with about $50M. The company has good relationships in the Middle Kingdom.
“We are excited about our new partnership with Recon Holding led by Tony” said Lerner and Short. “China is emerging as the world’s largest market for premium filmed entertainment, and we see enormous value in placing the Chinese market at the forefront of our global strategy. Our films have experienced considerable success in China and in other markets around the world, and we feel there is significant value in partnering with an astute, experienced, and well-connected partner to help us execute our long-term strategy of making commercial movies for the global market place.”
“Since Avi and his partners founded the company, the Millennium Films organization has created a dynamic film brand and a deep library of intellectual property that resonates with audiences on a global scale,” said Xia. “We believe Millennium’s unparalleled portfolio of motion picture franchises and intellectual property provides significant opportunities for long-term growth as the company continues to maximize the value of its creative properties across multiple platforms and in multiple territories. This is an incredible opportunity for us to build upon Millennium’s premium brand by accessing a film market in China that continues to experience a period of unprecedented growth.”
Millennium’s upcoming film slate includes The Hitman’s Bodyguard, starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L, Jackson; Escobar, starring Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz; and Hunter Killer, starring Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman.
The transaction with Recon is expected to close during Q2 of 2017, subject to the satisfaction of customary conditions. Millennium was advised by The Raine Group and Latham & Watkins LLP. Amir Malin of Qualia Capital also provided advice and counsel. Recon Holding was advised by China International Capital Corporation and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.