France's Wild Bunch, Germany's Senator to Merge

Courtesy of The Weinstein Company
Wild Bunch's film library includes "The Artist"

The combined entity will be a European independent film distribution and production giant.

PARIS — French production and distribution powerhouse Wild Bunch and Germany's Senator Entertainment will merge to create a European independent film distribution and production giant.

The combined company will manage a library of about 2,200 films with revenue of more than $250 million (€185 million) based on 2013 figures. Other financial details weren't disclosed.

With the merger, the larger company will be active in France, Germany, Spain and Italy, creating a formidable group positioned to possibly grow into a global company with distribution across traditional and digital platforms.

Berlin-based Senator Entertainment is one of Germany's leading independent TV and film production and distribution players, and Wild Bunch is a leader in European indie film distribution, with a library of over 1,800 titles, including The Artist, Blue Is the Warmest Color and the upcoming The Little Prince. The company also owns VOD/subscription VOD platform FilmoTV.

In a move that paid off, Wild Bunch released Abel Ferrara's Welcome to New York directly to VOD earlier this year, which brought in hundreds of thousands of views at €7. Based on Wild Bunch's expertise in digital, the combined group is expected to make a push to grow digital distribution.

The companies have a history of working together under the joint venture Central Film Distribution on the acquisition of films, including The Reader and The King's Speech as well as in video and TV distribution.

The partnership will capitalize on "significant synergies" and combine executives from the existing management teams to take over operations of the new group. Wild Bunch's co-founder and current CEO Vincent Grimond will take over the same position after the merger, and co-founders Brahim Chioua and Vincent Maraval will serve as COO and chief content officer, respectively. Senator's Max Sturm will serve as CFO.

Grimond called Senator "the perfect partner for the next phase of development of our company."

“This is a major step in our strategic and financial restructuring process. As previously stated, one of our main goals for an even stronger Senator Entertainment is the internationalization of our business," said Sturm.  "Combining with our cooperation partner Wild Bunch provides an excellent way to stabilize earnings and strengthen marketing power in a joint company. Together with the announced capital measures this business combination is key for a successful restructuring of Senator Entertainment.”

The merger will take place through a capital increase by incorporating all Wild Bunch shares into Senator Entertainment. The move will be voted on at a special shareholder meeting Sept. 12. It also will conclude the financial restructuring of Senator to strengthen its financial outlook.

Added Sturm: “I am well aware that we demand a lot from our shareholders through the announced capital measures, but it is crucial for the financial recovery of Senator Entertainment. At the same time we provide a clear and strong growth perspective with the Wild Bunch business combination. Through this step we immediately achieve the company size necessary to strengthen our purchasing and market position. Hence, we create a unique and convincing multi-domestic and pan-European player, poised for growth in a promising evolving market.”