France's Wild Bunch Restructures, Sets $35 Million for New Content

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
Wild Bunch Group backed 'Blue Is the Warmest Color.'

The company behind Palme d'Or winners 'Blue Is the Warmest Color,' 'I, Daniel Blake' and 'Shoplifters' will get a bailout from equity company Sapinda.

France’s Wild Bunch Group is getting a big financial bailout from international equity group Sapinda.

In a deal approved Tuesday, the Amsterdam-based Sapinda will take over $73.2 million (€62.7 million) in liabilities. Upwards of $42 million (€36.6 million) will be converted to equity in Wild Bunch in an equity deal that will give it 76 percent of the company. Overall, Wild Bunch will reduce its debt by $63 million ($54.6 million).

A major cash injection will also be in the form of a $35 million loan specifically for developing and acquiring new content.

Wild Bunch, fronted by co-founder and chief creative officer Vincent Maraval, is consistently behind big winners at Cannes, including Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters, Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake and Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is the Warmest Color, all of which took the Palme d’Or. Maraval, France’s answer to Harvey Weinstein, is one of the last international financiers of these types of mid-budget independent films globally.

Sapinda is backed by German financier Lars Windhorst, who already held a controlling stake in the company after facilitating a merger with Berlin-based Senator Entertainment in 2014.

With Sapinda taking a majority stake, current bondholders from a 2016 issue will have 15 percent of the company, leaving Wild Bunch co-founders Maraval and Alain de la Mata, CEO Vincent Grimond and COO Brahim Chioua with just 9 percent.

“We are pleased to be able to provide a financial solution to the highly decorated Wild Bunch film group, with this injection of equity capital, alongside a debt restructuring. An independent film champion like this with so much heritage requires stability and support to initiate a new phase of profitable growth,” Windhorst said in a statement.

The flamboyant financier has himself faced lawsuits and asset seizure in London, where he went to reestablish himself after facing bankruptcy and legal troubles in his native Germany. He recently acquired luxury lingerie line La Perla.

Added Grimond: “The financial stability offered by Sapinda will enable Wild Bunch to pursue new market opportunities and to build on its considerable assets as a leading pan-European content provider.” He also said that company’s fledgling TV arm is a focus for growth going forward. So far, the TV arm’s only show of note is the Dustin Hoffman-starrer Medici: Masters of Florence, which sold to Netflix in the U.S.

The deal is set to be voted on by shareholders Sept. 20.