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Berlin: How 'Rush' Losses Led to Exclusive Media Shakeup (Analysis)

Executive Suite Sinclair East - H 2013
Christopher Patey

Six years after helping to found Exclusive, Nigel Sinclair and Guy East likely will be bought out as a result of disappointing box office from Ron Howard’s racing pic.

A dramatic showdown is underway at Exclusive Media, where co-chairmen Nigel Sinclair and Guy East are being forced out following a major financial hit incurred because of Ron Howard’s Formula One drama Rush.

Dasym Investment Strategies, the multibillion-dollar Dutch investment fund that has a majority stake in the leading production, financing and sales company, are in exit discussions with East and Sinclair, according to insiders. The duo, with longtime ties to the independent film business, formed Exclusive in 2008 with Marc Shipper and Simon Oakes. Dasym invests on behalf of media tycoon John De Mol, among others.

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There’s been conflict between East, Sinclair and Dasym higher-ups, including founder and CEO Frank Botman, since Rush underperformed at the U.S. box office last fall, taking in only $26.9 million. It did better overseas, earning $63.3 million, but that wasn’t enough to stem a loss, which sources say is in the $10 million range.

Exclusive co-financed the $50 million film  — starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl — with Brian Oliver’s Cross Creek Pictures, but ended up putting up between $20 million and $30 million to market the film in the U.S., where Universal released the movie.

It doesn’t appear that Dasym is pulling out of Exclusive but instead has decided to replace East and Sinclair.

Shipper, Exclusive’s COO, and Oakes, vice chairman of Exclusive, both have ties to Botman.

In 2007, Oakes and Shipper bought iconic British horror label Hammer Films with backing from Cryte Investments, a predecessor to Dasym. A year later, again with Cryte’s help, they bought East and Sinclair’s Spitfire Pictures, which led to the formation of Exclusive. Today Oakes serves as CEO and president of Hammer.

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Sinclair and East each have a stake in Exclusive and will have to be bought out. It’s possible they will transition into a producing deal. Representatives from Dasym, including Mark Ramakers, who has taken over a lot of the oversight of Exclusive from Botman, have been in Exclusive’s Los Angeles offices for the past two weeks, according to sources.

Exclusive declined specific comment, but issued a statement addressing the possibility of new management. “Exclusive Media’s management is engaged in collaborative discussions with our partners from Dasym Investment Strategies BV regarding the forward plan for the company. We will make an announcement regarding the outcome of these discussions at the appropriate time,” Sinclair said in the statement.

STORY: Berlin: Nigel Sinclair, Guy East Likely to Exit Exclusive Media

Sinclair and East are widely respected in the independent community and have worked together for two decades, first at Intermedia and then at Spitfire. And while Rush may have been a financial disappointment, Exclusive’s success stories include George Clooney’s The Ides of March, End of Watch, Snitch and The Woman in Black, a low-budget Daniel Radcliffe horror movie that grossed a whopping $127 million worldwide in 2012.

News of the shakeup rocked Berlin’s European Film Market on Friday, as veteran executives on the ground said they don’t believe Exclusive is going away. The company’s sales chief Alex Walton is shopping several high-profile Exclusive-backed projects, including the Whitey Bulger biopic Black Mass starring Johnny Depp. Black Mass was put on hold last year when Depp fell out of the film, but it is now back on, with the actor once again in the lead.

On Jan. 31, Exclusive snagged one of the highest-profile projects heading for Berlin, the Prohibition-era drama Ezekiel Moss. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman was to have directed Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal in the movie. Following the actor’s death Feb. 2, Exclusive announced the project was being put on hold.

Sinclair, a Scotland-born entertainment attorney, first met the British East in 1988 while hustling for business at L.A.’s Bel Age Hotel (now The London). Sinclair began representing East, who ran the London-based Majestic Films, and in 1995, East persuaded Sinclair to leave behind a client list that included Mel Gibson and Ridley Scott to form production-finance company Intermedia.

Stuart Kemp contributed to this report.