Ben Ammar eyes film distribution deals

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ROME -- Franco-Tunisian film powerbroker Tarak Ben Ammar is on the verge of closing a deal to take control of Italian distributor Eagle Pictures, according to Italian media reports and a source close to the negotiations. He is also looking beyond that buy toward the possible acquisition of a "major" European distributor.

Ben Ammar is the director of France's Quinta Communications, a board member of the Weinstein Co., and an advisor to both former Italian prime minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi and News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch.

In addition to his relationship with Berlusconi, Ben Ammar's Italian roots extend to investment bank Mediobanca, where he sits on the board, and television content producer Lux Vide, where he is a major shareholder.

Eagle Pictures is about to be added to the list, according to a report in the financial daily Il Sole/24 Ore that was confirmed by a source close to the deal.

Italy's fourth-largest distributor is controlled by founders Stefano and Ciro Dammicco, but it is not clear whether Ben Ammar will take control of Eagle Pictures by acquiring the Dammicco's 38% stake in the company or by buying out smaller shareholders.

"The deal is very close to being completed," sources close to the deal said. "Ben Ammar gets what he wants."

It is not clear how the acquisition of Eagle Pictures will impact Ben Ammar's relationship with Berlusconi, who controls Medusa, Italy's largest film distributor and one of Eagle Pictures' main rivals.

That rivalry may be overshadowed, however. Il Sole/24 Ore also reported that Ben Ammar is also looking to acquire a major independent European distributor. The source familiar with the Eagle Pictures deal was unfamiliar with that aspect but did not rule it out.

According to the story in Tuesday's editions of the Milan-based daily, the deal would be brokered over the coming weeks and would include capital from Italy and from investment bankers Goldman Sachs.

A spokesman for Eagle Pictures declined comment on the reports when contacted. Ben Ammar's Paris office did not return phone calls seeking comment.
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