Toronto 2012: Bank of America Sends Newly Promoted Pair To Fest

Brian Stearns and Daniel Timmons are the first to hold the position of head of entertainment lending in over a decade, as the institution expands its mandate to become a global player.

Brian Stearns and Daniel Timmons are heading to Toronto this week for the annual film festival with new titles as senior vps of Bank of America and as co-heads of the bank’s expanding entertainment industry group – the first to hold that leadership position at the big bank in more than a decade.

In Toronto, they will meet with clients like Alliance and Entertainment One, as well as sales agents such as Sierra Pictures and IM Global. They will also consult with European clients like Luxembourg based media fund Anton Capital Entertainment and the U.K.’s Keyone Productions about the Euro zone crisis and the shortage of European banks doing entertainment lending.

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In 2007, there were a number of European banks active in entertainment, but that changed with the global economic crisis that hit in 2008.  “A lot of those banks pulled back and are dealing with issues in their own countries,” says Timmons. “What you are left with are a handful of very strong domestic banks still providing capital to the space.”

For some U.S. banks, like B of A and JP Morgan, that created an opportunity to work with corporate clients and movie companies that operate around the world and do multiple pictures a year with budgets of $5-$15 million. They do not finance single pictures, like Comerica and Union Bank.

After de-emphasizing entertainment following the 1997 merger with Nations Bank, B of A returned to the sector in 2010. Since then the entertainment unit has continued to be a subset of a larger unit, until now.

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B of A is still the banker for many big players in U.S. show business, including Legendary Pictures, New Regency, MGM, CAA and Dune Entertainment, but now is also looking to leverage growth in Europe and Asia.

“The mandate we have is not simply geographically constrained to Los Angeles,” says Timmons. “It’s really a global mandate.”

Stearns began his career working in physical production for movies, as well as marketing and international sales. He transitioned to movie finance with the French bank Natixis and worked at Union Bank before joining B of A in 2011.

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Timmons worked in financial services for the technology sector in San Francisco before he joined B of A’s global corporate group in New York in 2002.  He moved to L.A. and got involved in entertainment in 2005.

The bank currently has committed about $1.5 billion in capital to entertainment companies. It also is involved in structured transitions alone and with partners worth over $10 billion.

“If a deal makes sense and we want to pursue it,” says Stearns, “we will go after it.”

However it is still a bank and so standards remain high. “Were not growing for growth’s sake,” says Timmons. “We’re growing when it meets our strategic directive. But there is no upper limit on (capital available for) our portfolio.” 

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