Global Road Faces Uncertain Future as Owner Donald Tang Struggles to Raise Money (Exclusive)

Photographed by Sam Frost
Donald Tang

Multiple insiders say the company has been unable to obtain the funds needed to keep it flush beyond the end of the year.

Hollywood's newest mini-studio, Global Road Entertainment, is facing an uncertain future even before it officially turns 1 year old.

Numerous insiders tell The Hollywood Reporter that parent company Tang Media Partners, founded by Donald Tang, has been unable to raise the funds needed to keep Global Road flush beyond the end of the year. Global Road, focusing on both film and television, is run by veteran Hollywood studio chief Rob Friedman.

"Global Road Entertainment is continuing to pursue fundraising efforts and also identifying additional ways to bring both capital and strategic partners into the fold in support of the studio’s plan," the company said in a statement to THR. "We currently have a slate of films set for release for the second half of the year and expect to begin producing our own product in 2019. The film slate complements our active and robust television business of producing content for both domestic and international partners."

Talk of Global Road's state of health picked up in recent days after it was revealed that the company has pulled City of Lies, starring Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker, from its Sept. 7 release. Insiders say the decision to take City of Lies off the calendar July 19 was prompted by a damaging Rolling Stone interview with Depp that hit newsstands in June. Sources say it would have been difficult for the actor to do press for the film in light of the magazine piece, as well as his ongoing legal battles.

But the far-larger issue facing Friedman and his team is securing the financing to build a slate of movies. To date, the mini-studio has yet to score a box-office win. Some of its releases were inherited, including City of Lies. Global Road is set to release its next feature, the family adventure A.X.L., on Aug. 24, followed by the thriller The Silence on Dec. 7.

The TV side is in a better position because it's been able to set up projects, including Muscle Shoals at ABC.

In mid-February, Tang Media hired investment banks Moelis & Co. and Morgan Stanley to raise roughly $200 million in equity capital from both Asian and Western markets. So far, those efforts haven't paid off.

Before launching Tang Media in 2015, Tang, born in Shanghai, leveraged his career on Wall Street, where he had served as chairman of Asia Pacific for Bear Stearns, to help broker some of the biggest deals involving the U.S. and Chinese film industries, including AMC Entertainment's $2.6 billion sale to Dalian Wanda Group in 2012.

In mid-2016, Tang began his own foray into Hollywood in earnest upon buying IM Global and simultaneously launching a TV production fund with the company's recently hatched IM Global Television unit.

A year ago this month, Tang closed a deal to buy North American distributor Open Road Films and hired veteran Hollywood studio chief Friedman to run the combined companies. In October, the indie studio was rebranded Global Road Entertainment.

While headquartered in Los Angeles, Tang Media has locally incorporated affiliate offices in Shanghai and Beijing, where some of its biggest backers are based. The company's strategic investors include Tencent, China Everbright, Li Ruigang's China Media Capital, Sequoia Capital's Neil Shen, Chinese studio Huayi Brothers Media and India's Reliance Entertainment.

Film projects announced in recent months by Global Road include Tiger & Bunny, based on the hit Japanese anime television series. Bandai Namco Pictures, Imagine Entertainment and Weed Road Pictures are partners. And Global Road's inaugural U.S.-Chinese co-production with parent company Tang is The Last Masters, a martial-arts action thriller to be produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura and written by Alex Tse.

Patrick Brzeski contributed to this report.