Imagine Entertainment Confirms Investment From Raine Group

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Ron Howard, Brian Grazer

The production company headed by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard says it will expand into new areas like branded content and digital formats.

Imagine Entertainment said Monday that it has secured what it called a significant investment from the Raine Group, the merchant bank, which it will use to fund new projects across various media. 

Imagine, which was founded in 1986, said it will use the new financing for film and TV production while also expanding into new areas such as branded content, location-based entertainment and digital formats using new technologies and forms of distribution. The company said it expects to explore growth opportunities and potential acquisitions.

The size of the investment was not announced, although sources have placed it at more than $100 million. As part of the transaction, Raine co-founder Joe Ravitch and Erik Hodge, who heads up Raine’s entertainment practice, will join the Imagine board, with Grazer and Howard continuing to run Imagine as executive chairmen.

The move comes as Imagine's long-running relationship with Universal Pictures is coming to an end, with the studio planning not to renew it.

"The ways in which content is created and consumed are transforming faster than ever before, expanding in directions that hadn’t been conceived even a few years ago," Grazer said in a statement. "The opportunity to extend Imagine’s reach across this expanding landscape is a driving force for us. Through this partnership, we are incredibly excited to roll out a slate of new projects that capture the imagination and visions we share on a global scale." 

Added Howard, "We are proud of the legacy we have built with Imagine and are more excited than ever to build on it by tapping into our creative, experimental and entrepreneurial DNA to ignite new passion projects. This investment and partnership unlocks new doors for us as creators and for the company and its expansionary endeavors. It allows us to build upon our creative relationships to broaden our reach into all narrative formats and platforms. We appreciate Raine’s support and welcome them to the Imagine family."

Past Raine investments have included Vice Media, Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s Important Studios, action sports company Nitro Circus and fantasy sports operator Draft Kings. Additional strategic co-investors brought in by Raine include China Media Capital, the Antenna Group and WPP.    

"We have long admired Ron, Brian and their team as master storytellers," Hodge said. "We are excited to invest in and partner with Imagine as they expand their many successful franchises across new mediums."

"We have built our business on the principle that content and creators are the most valuable elements in today's media ecosystem," added Ravitch. "Imagine’s well-established reputation as a talent-friendly creative partner was incredibly important to us, and we look forward to helping them grow their business and continue to tell amazing stories and astonish and delight global audiences as they continue in this tradition." In connection with the transaction, both Hodge and Ravitch will join Imagine’s board.

Imagine's extensive film credits include the Oscar best-picture winner A Beautiful Mind along with such titles as Apollo 13, American Gangster and The Da Vinci Code as well as TV series like the current hit Empire.

Its 2013 racing drama Rush, for which it secured outside financing, was the last film it released through Universal. Imagine's most recent release, the sea-faring adventure In the Heart of the Sea, was produced with Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow. The expensive period piece cost $100 million and ran aground at the box office, grossing just $90.5 million worldwide to date.

Howard is now in postproduction on the Tom Hanks-starring Inferno, his third adaptation of one of Dan Brown's mystery thrillers, which Sony will launch on Oct. 14.

Skip Brittenham and Cliff Gilbert-Lurie of Ziffren Brittenham LLP represented Imagine Entertainment in the investment deal while Neil Whorisky of Cleary Gottlieb acted as legal counsel to Raine.

Paul, Weiss tax partner Jeff Samuels and corporate partner Ariel Deckelbaum also served as advisors to Imagine.