Will Smith and director Marc Forster have teamed up to acquire Telepool GmbH, the German licensing and distribution company that is a major European player in theatrical and multi-platform distribution. Beyond that preexisting business, Telepool will become a development, financing and distribution partner for projects involving the duo. The acquisition was made by The Smith Family Circle, Will and Jada Smith’s Family Office, and Elysian Fields, a Zurich-based investment holding company co-founded by Forster. Purchase price was not disclosed.
The team-up and acquisition target seems unusual, but both Smith and Forster are entrepreneurial multi-hyphenates who are taking the initiative at a disruptive moment to diversify and better control the product they generate in German-speaking territories. Telepool’s core business is the acquisition, sale and promotion of narrative and gaming content as well as merchandising and licensing of publishing and excerpt rights for German-speaking territories. The Telepool group has headquarters in Munich, Zurich, Leipzig, Seesen and Los Angeles. Telepool was owned by public-broadcasting shareholders Bayerischer Rundfunk, Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, SWR Media Services GmbH and Telvetia S.A.
Said Smith:: “Marc and I took a close look at Telepool and discovered a company that has an incredible reputation and a lot of potential. We look forward to working together and with the Telepool team to create unique opportunities and content to strategically growing the business.”
Said Forster: “As a German-born Swiss national, I was familiar with Telepool long before completing this acquisition with Will and his family. We believe that Telepool is well positioned for continued success and growth in our rapidly changing media landscape. I believe Will and I will be able to contribute our combined energies and global relationships to the company’s advantage. It’s an exciting undertaking.”
Part of the deal gives Smith and James Lassiter’s Overbrook Entertainment the option to develop and distribute film and TV projects through Telepool. Smith and Lassiter are longtime partners in Overbrook and Smith is also a co-owner of Westbrook Entertainment, the management, branding and digital content production company that he and Jada Pinkett-Smith started with their partner Miguel Melendez in 2016.
Marc Forster and Renee Wolfe’s independent production entity 2dux² also have the option to develop and distribute their film and TV projects through Telepool.
Said André Druskeit, since June 1 CEO of Telepool Group: “The new shareholders are very much committed to continuing our business model. Also all management positions at subsidiary companies and all other management functions will remain unchanged for the time being. The setup is great and we’re looking forward to many exciting projects with Will, Marc and all our business partners. We will also continue the successful cooperation with our previous shareholders. Although they have indeed sold all of their shares in Telepool, they have renewed their respective framework agreements with us. I would like to thank them for this as well as for the support throughout the past decades. Also many thanks to Dr. Thomas Weymar, our longtime CEO who retired by the end of May, for successfully developing our company over the last 25 years.”
Said Rudolf Matter, Director of Swiss Radio and Television (SRF) and former President of Telepool’s board: “The parting shareholders, together with Zetra International AG have carefully assessed the strategic options for Telepool. After an extensive evaluation period we are very happy to place Telepool into the hands of the group of investors headed by Marc Forster and Will Smith. We are convinced that this step will lead to interesting, new perspectives for the company and its employees.”
Zetra International AG acted as exclusive financial advisor to the sellers.
Forster, whose directing credits include The Kite Runner, Monster’s Ball, World War Z and the James Bond film Quantum of Solace, most recently wrapped Christopher Robin, which Disney releases August 3. Smith is coming off Bright for Netflix, and wrapped Aladdin for Disney. He is filming Gemini Man with Ang Lee directing. Forster and Smith are teamed with Lassiter as producers on Angelology, an adaptation of the Danielle Trussoni novel.