Drama at Relativity
Exec exits, a $200 million loan and new questions as Ryan Kavanaugh's indie studio preps "Mirror Mirror."
For many in Hollywood, the most interesting aspect of Relativity Media is whether founder and CEO Ryan Kavanaugh can continue what appears to be a high-wire act to keep releasing big-budget movies.
The company insists a recent $200 million loan from Colbeck Capital Management is part of raising money as any growing company does. But banking sources continue to question its finances and ponder whether its major investor, Elliott Management, can or will be bought out.
Relativity, which most recently distributed Immortals (pulling in a strong but not blockbuster $187 million worldwide to date), is preparing to release several films in 2012, most important among them Mirror Mirror, a $100 million reworking of the Snow White story starring Julia Roberts, which opens March 16. An insider says Relativity is well under way in terms of planning and -- crucially -- paying for that film's marketing campaign.
But a number of bankers say they are not working with Relativity because they remain unconvinced about its strength in light of financial maneuvering and relentless management changes.
In October, Brian Edwards resigned as the company's COO after just five months. The previous month, Joe Matukewicz, its senior vp acquisitions, left to join Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions. The company also has lost Bill Sutman, its CFO; Peter Adee, president of marketing and distribution; and Michael Joe, who had been president.
Now there is uncertainty about Joe's replacement, Steve Bertam, whose contract is up in January. A company insider says Relativity wants him to remain in the job but says no announcement will be made until early January.
Another insider says work is proceeding despite a sense of uncertainty. "All we can do is put our heads down and stick to our knitting," this person says. "When you're an independent like this, you get your lifeline in increments. … Ryan keeps pulling rabbits out of his hat."
-- Alex Ben Block contributed to this report.