Icon buys Oz's largest arthouse chain


SYDNEY -- Australia's largest independent film distributor and arthouse cinema chain, Dendy has been sold to Mel Gibson and Bruce Davey’s Icon Distribution for A$21.5 million ($19.6 million), following what Dendy owner the Becker Group said was "a competitive bid process."

Announcing the sale Friday (22), Becker said the deal includes the 35 -screen Dendy Cinema chain in Australia and New Zealand and the Dendy film distribution business in Australia and New Zealand. The deal, expected to closed by March 31, makes Icon the largest independent distributor in Australia.

Becker said that the sale marked the conclusion of a competitive bidding process, where "Icon was selected based on various parameters including value, timing and transaction certainty."

Becker managing director Warwick Syphers said Becker would now focus on growing its television production and on site broadcasting assets.

Dendy Films and Dendy Cinemas were part of the film and TV production and distribution company the Becker Group, which was acquired by regional broadcaster Prime Media for A$24 million following changes to Australia ’s cross media ownership laws last year.

The Icon bid was A$6 million more than Becker Group founders Richard and Russell Becker were willing to pay to buy back the film assets of the Becker Group, as part of the sale of their company to Prime. That transaction was blocked by Australian regulators.

And while the deal gives Icon increased scale here, it does not include the services of former Dendy CEO’s Richard Payten and Andrew Mackie, who left Dendy late last month to start up their own independent distribution company, Transmission. Transmission has started business with the acquisition of Naomi Watts starrer, “The Painted Veil,” which it will release here on April 24, and a distribution partnership with Paramount Pictures Australia.