Groundswell restructures with Comerica assist

Firm to seek equity partnerships on film co-productions

Michael London's Groundswell Prods. has completed a management-led restructuring.

The moves, assisted by Comerica Entertainment Group, puts the 4-year-old indie film company on new fiscal footing following a pullout by hedge fund TPG-Axon, its equity partner the past three years. Comerica, which previously funded a $135 million credit facility for the company, has agreed to provide a new facility of about $50 million in line with Groundswell's sharpened business plan.

As part of the new game plan, Groundswell will seek equity partnerships on film co-productions and selectively seek studio money for certain projects. London, who continues to serve as Groundswell CEO, said the move from a wholly independent model reflects the tough times for indies.

"We'll have more control and can work within the studio structure," London said.

London and partner Jonathan Fischer -- elevated from COO to president in the recently completed restructuring -- bought out TPG-Axon's interest in Groundswell to retain full rights to its eight-pic catalog.

"We may seek some equity investment eventually to create long-term bandwidth in the company," London said. "But for now, we are sufficiently capitalized for our needs over the next year or two.

Groundswell aims to produce two to three movies per year.

"Groundswell has survived an enormous shakeout in the independent film world and is in a strong position now to revitalize and thrive," Comerica senior vp Jaren Underwood said.

Groundswell earned kudos with its first movie, 2008's "The Visitor," a co-production with Participant that earned Richard Jenkins a best actor Oscar nomination. That same year, it released "Milk" through Focus; the Harvey Milk biopic scored eight Oscar noms and wins for Sean Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

None of Groundswell's movies has reached the boxoffice of London's "Sideways," which pulled in $71.5 million domestically after its 2004 release. Most recently, Groundswell was represented by the Warner Bros.-distributed Matt Damon starrer "The Informant!," also produced with Participant.

Groundswell's other titles have included "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh," "Smart People," "Appaloosa" and "The Marc Pease Experiment." Its next film -- Andrew Jarecki's murder mystery "All Good Things," starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst -- awaits slotting by the Weinstein Co.

Groundswell has an output deal with Alliance Films for Canada, with Roadshow for Australia and New Zealand, and with Svensk for Scandinavia. It is in negotiations on additional territories.
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