Carlyle aids Mill management buyout

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LONDON -- U.K. and U.S.-based special effects house The Mill has snapped up itself in a management buyout fueled by private equity cash from Carlyle Group, the parties said Tuesday.

The deal ends the involvement of previous private equity group 3i, which secured a 60% stake in the London effects house in February 2001.

The Mill's management team, led by chief executive Robin Shenfield, will own "a substantial portion of the business" after the transaction in a deal insiders said is worth around £60 million ($118 million).

Founded in London in 1990 by Robin Shenfield and Pat Joseph, The Mill now has presences in London, New York and Los Angeles. Shenfield and Joseph have committed to remain with the business, following the deal.

Shenfield said he was looking forward to working with the Carlyle Group to "grow our (The Mill) position as a world-leading visual effects company."

The Carlyle Group's Bruno Mourgue d'Algue said: "The Mill is one of a small number of businesses with the scale, creative expertise and execution abilities to perform post-production for television commercials at the highest level. We hope to work closely with the management team to grow the business in both the U.K. and the U.S."

Carlyle was advised by Latham & Watkins, Spectrum Strategy Consultants and PriceWaterhouseCoopers on the transaction. Financing for the deal was provided by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The Mill was advised by LongAcre Partners and Osborne Clarke. Jamieson Corporate Finance and Dickson Minto W.S advised management.

In recent years, The Mill has given up working on films to focus efforts on television and commercials. Original investors in the company include director Ridley Scott ("Gladiator") who secured the company a special effects Oscar in 2001 for the sword and sandal epic. Scott has retained a minute minority shareholding in the operation but a spokesperson said the director will have "almost nothing to do" with the company any more.

Based in Soho here, The Mill recently launched an L.A. arm in December 2006 employing more than 12 professional and technical staff.
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