Icon expands in Australia with Dendy


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

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 close by March 31, makes Icon the largest independent distributor in Australia.

"Icon was selected based on various parameters including value, timing and transaction certainty," the Becker Group said Friday.

Becker managing director Warwick Syphers said the company will now focus on growing its television production and 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 AUS$24 million following changes to Australia's cross-media ownership laws last year.

The Icon bid was AUS$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.

Although the deal gives Icon increased scale here, it does not include the services of former Dendy CEOs Richard Payten and Andrew Mackie, who left Dendy late last month to start an independent distribution company, Transmission.

Transmission has started business with a distribution partnership with Paramount Pictures Australia as well as the acquisition of the Naomi Watts starrer "The Painted Veil," which it will release here April 24.