Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp Eyes Options As Potential Suitors Kick Tires

By Nancy Tartaglione, Peter White

Lou Faulon/STX Entertainment

Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp is understood to be weighing its options as the company struggles under recent losses, stemming in part from a costly gamble on 2017’s Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets. International investors are thought to be kicking the tires of the Paris-headquartered company. Those include Franco-Tunisian businessman Tarak Ben Ammar, a board memeber at Vivendi and The Weinstein Co, where he is currently helping to complete a sale amid the wreckage of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Multiple other players have expressed interest in EuropaCorp in a manner of ways, Deadline understands. Lionsgate is among those that may be in the mix, and, as Deadline’s sister publication Variety first reported, French broadcaster TF1 is said to be looking at some of the catalog.

It is not surprising that EuropaCorp would be considering options. The company posted an $83 million net loss in its six-month financial results in December, attributed to the underperformance of its slate last year, largely anchored around Besson’s $200M-$210M sci-fi opus Valerian, as well as the Tom Hanks movie The Circle and the period pic Their Finest. That loss followed a $136M loss for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017.

In between the two, plans had been put in place to drastically reduce the film slate, cut overhead and re-focus strategy to concentrate on the production of two to three English-language features per year, the production of two French-language features per year, production of English-language TV series, and the distribution of films and international sales.

In December, the company said it was continuing its “actions to reinforce financial capacities and reduce overheads.” Besson’s next movie as director is the action thriller Anna, on which EuropaCorp is partnered with Lionsgate.

This week, the company started a consultation process that could see the layoff of 22 employees, and it sold its French television division to European media group Mediawan.

Per the Variety report, EuropaCorp has instructed investment bank JPMorgan to find new backers and is understood to require the funds by the end of the fiscal year in March. It is expected to discuss the sale of its assets, which includes its film library — consisting of movies such as Taken and The Transporter — with buyers at a Paris-based presentation next month. A distinction here should be made between the JPMorgan entertainment group that’s based in Los Anglees and the investment bank in Paris, which is the on-point group for any sale process.

Either way, this looks to be part of a means to right-size a company whose overhead had grown ornery versus its revenues despite some solid recent hits including 2014’s Lucy. Options appear to be open as the storied company Besson founded in 2000 seeks stabilization.

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