China's Tencent Takes Stake in David Ellison's Skydance

THR 100 List 2017 -David Ellison -Getty-H 2017
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The surprise deal breaks from the recent trend of deep-pocketed Chinese firms shying away from major investments in Hollywood.

Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings has acquired a minority stake in David Ellison's Skydance Media as part of a new strategic partnership.

The deal breaks from the recent trend of Chinese companies shying away from high-profile Hollywood investments.

Tencent, based in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, has purchased a stake of a little less than 10 percent, an industry source with knowledge of the agreement tells The Hollywood Reporter.

The deal gives Skydance a partner with powerful reach in the world's second-largest entertainment market. Tencent is the world's largest gaming company, and it also owns WeChat, China's most popular messaging and social media service with over 900 million users.

The tie-up will give Tencent the opportunity to co-finance Skydance films, as well as to market, distribute and merchandise them in China, the two companies said. The deal also opens the door to collaboration on other media initiatives, including television, gaming and virtual reality — areas of recent aggressive expansion for Skydance.

Launched in 2010, Skydance is best known for tentpole projects including recent films in the Mission Impossible, Star Trek and Terminator franchises. Its expanding television output includes the Golden Globe-nominated Netflix drama Grace and Frankie and the upcoming Altered Carbon on Netflix, Jack Ryan on Amazon and Dietland on AMC, among other shows.

"Skydance has experienced a tremendous amount of growth since our inception in 2010, and we're excited that our next phase of expansion will be in partnership with a company that shares our vision for where entertainment is heading," said Ellison in a statement.

Ellison is the son of Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison and the brother of Annapurna Pictures head Megan Ellison.

Skydance is currently in production on the new Mission: Impossible film; Gemini Man starring Will Smith, directed by Ang Lee; the next Terminator film produced by James Cameron and directed by Tim Miller; and two animated projects.

Tencent's sprawling Silicon Valley and Hollywood portfolio includes strategic stakes in Tesla, Snap, STX Entertainment, Donald Tang's Global Road, WME-IMG China and Ron Howard and Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment, among other investments.