Imagine Entertainment in talks to sell majority stake to London-based investment firm Centricus

Imagine Entertainment is in talks to sell a majority stake in the production banner run by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer to London-based investment firm Centricus Asset Management Ltd.

The talks were first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Negotiations are accelerating but a source close to the situation warns that there is still no certainty that an agreement will succeed. Ongoing talks with Centricus reportedly value Imagine Entertainment, one of Hollywood’s largest independent content producers, at $600-700 million. The company has been seeking a capital injection through a stock sale for a few months.

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Centricus has $35 billion in assets under management and is known for its investments in financial services, technology, infrastructure, media and sports ventures. The company was co-founded in 2016 by Nizar Al-Bassam and Dalinc Ariburnu. Josh Purvis is CEO and COO.

Imagine Entertainment declined to comment. Centricus could not be immediately reached on Saturday. Investment firm Raine Group, which owns 51% of Imagine after investing $100 million in the company from 2016, is expected to retain a small part of the business even if a deal with Centricus is reached.

Imagine had a lengthy courtship last year with Candle Media, the Blackstone-backed company run by Disney alumni Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs that is on the hunt for production banners such as Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and animated producer of Moonbug Entertainment children’s programs.

Founded in 1986 by Howard and Grazer, ‘Apollo 13’, ‘A Beautiful Mind’ and ‘Arrested Development’ producer Imagine Entertainment has been on sale for some time at a time when major players in the media industry are seeking to acquire as much content as possible, whether to attract ad buyers or streamer subscribers. Grazer and Howard plan to remain at the helm of Imagine, which could be one reason a financial buyer such as Centricus would be attractive to the couple who have maintained one of Hollywood’s longest running business partnerships. .

Imagine Entertainment includes Imagine Features, Imagine Television Studios, Imagine Documentaries, Imagine Kids+Family, Imagine Brands, as well as interests in Jax Media and Jigsaw Productions. Howard and Grazer serve as executive chairman of the company.

The company is in the midst of major structural changes which could also be driven by a pending transaction. Howard and Grazer named Tony Hernandez and Lilly Burns of Jax Media co-presidents of Imagine, giving them full creative control over scripted film and television. They will continue to operate Jax in addition to developing and producing at Imagine. Their previous hits include Netflix’s all-new “Emily in Paris,” HBO Max’s “Search Party,” and award-winning player “Russian Doll.”

Led by Justin Wilkes and Sara Bernstein, Imagine’s documentary unit has nearly 20 unscripted feature and series projects released or in production, nearly all with distributors attached. Titles include the Howard-directed National Geographic release “Rebuilding Paradise,” the Sony Pictures Classics Julia Child documentary “Julia,” and “Who Are You, Charlie Brown?” from Apple. and “Dad”.

Other notable recent titles produced by Imagine Entertainment include “Tick, tick,…Boom!” by Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Thirteen Lives” by Howard, “Crime Scene: Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel” by Netflix, “Genius: Aretha” by Nat Geo. “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” from Hulu and “Swagger” from Apple TV Plus, among many others.

Grazer and Howard have been producing partners for nearly 40 years. The couple have long maintained their independence, although they have partnered with major studios for film and television projects. Imagine does not own most of its productions, but is constantly involved in films such as “A Beautiful Mind”, “Backdraft”, “Apollo 13”, “8 Mile” and “Mulholland Drive”, and television series such as “24”, “Friday Night Lights”, “Arrested Development” and “Empire”.

(Photo: Ron Howard and Brian Grazer)

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