Media Rights Capital in Talks to Sell Stake to Guggenheim Partners (Exclusive)

2:35 PM PST 12/06/2013 by Kim Masters , Matthew Belloni
"Ted"

The "House of Cards" and "Ted" producer would partner with the investor in Dick Clark Productions and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Media Rights Capital, the prolific film and TV studio behind Netflix's House of Cards and the hit movie Ted, is in talks to sell a share of the company to financial services giant Guggenheim Partners, according to sources.

Guggenheim, owner of Dick Clark Productions and majority backer of the Los Angeles Dodgers, also owns the parent company of The Hollywood Reporter. Both Guggenheim and MRC declined to comment. Financial terms of the potential deal are not known.

MRC, founded by Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu, has become a key co-financing partner on Hollywood films and TV series. The mini-studio is a hybrid financier, rights-holder and development pod, often packaging projects like Seth MacFarlane's Ted and Neill Blomkamp's Elysium and bringing them to studios for distribution. As major Hollywood studios have cut back on the films they make, outside financier-producers like MRC have become more important.

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After receiving an initial investment boost from William Morris Endeavor, where Wiczyk once worked as an agent, the company now is owned by a group that includes Goldman Sachs, AT&T, ad giant WPP and private equity firm ABRY Partners.

The Guggenheim investment would buy out some but not all of the current owners. Wiczyk and Satchu would remain in control of the company. Negotiations are said to be in an advanced stage, but sources caution that no deal is in place and the talks could fall apart.

Chicago- and New York-based Guggenheim has made an aggressive push into Los Angeles in recent years. In addition to leading the group that paid $2.15 billion for the Dodgers, it outbid several other suitors for Dick Clark, producer of the Golden Globe Awards, the American Music Awards and other telecasts. Guggenheim also was a bidder for Hulu until the digital video service's owners took it off the market.

In MRC's early years, the company served as a financier for modestly budgeted movies such as The Invention of Lying, The Adjustment Bureau and The Box. In 2011, it signed a distribution deal with Universal, and Ted, co-written and directed by Family Guy creator MacFarlane, struck box-office gold. The comedy, made for about $50 million, grossed $549 million worldwide. A sequel is likely, though it is still unclear whether Universal will distribute the film.

MRC also financed MacFarlane's follow-up, A Million Ways to Die in the West, which will be released on May 30, 2014. MRC also has become a partner on Blomkamp's next film, Chappie.

MRC's foray into television has included shows for The CW and ABC, among others. In 2008, it launched a risky experiment to program an entire three-hour block on Sunday nights on The CW, but those shows were quickly yanked after delivering low ratings.

MRC has had much better luck with the acclaimed political drama House of Cards, which the company packaged with director David Fincher and star Kevin Spacey and sold to Netflix in an eye-popping $100 million deal that guaranteed two seasons before a single episode was produced. House of Cards scored Emmy nominations this year for drama series, Spacey and co-star Robin Wright. Its second season will premiere Feb. 14 on the digital service.

Borys Kit contributed to this report.

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