Relativity's Ryan Kavanaugh Buys Dog Food Company (Exclusive)

Ryan Kavanaugh Britta Lend A Free Hand - P 2013
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Ryan Kavanaugh Britta Lend A Free Hand - P 2013

UPDATED: Kavanaugh, his wife, Jim Wiatt and singer Michael Buble have acquired FreeHand, dedicated to saving rescue dogs. A reality show is planned.

Relativity Media CEO Ryan Kavanaugh and his wife, Britta Lazenga-Kavanaugh, are leading a group of show business investors who have acquired FreeHand, a super-premium pet food company known for its commitment to helping save the lives of homeless dogs.

Former William Morris Agency CEO Jim Wiatt and singer Michael Buble also are investors in the Los Angeles-based manufacturer, which makes a line of dry dog foods that are described by the company as “holistic,” “natural” and “made in America.” The sale price was not disclosed.

The company principle is “buy one, give one,” meaning that for each pound of dog food sold, FreeHand donates an equal amount of food to a local rescue organization or animal shelter.

FreeHand does not advertise or market. Kavanaugh says he plans to raise the profile of the company via his other businesses.

“It’s unquestionable it will be integrated into Relativity’s movies, TV shows and our sports program,” Kavanaugh tells The Hollywood Reporter, adding: “We hope this will become a staple of Hollywood, and if you are not involved in this, then you’re not promoting social good amongst the animal world.”

Kavanaugh says that his company’s television division, Relativity Real, is already in production on the first 10-episode season of a new reality show that is built “around the building of a dog food company." Kavanaugh said the show has been acquired for distribution by a cable TV channel but was not free to name that outlet.

Wiatt points out that FreeHand was recently awarded a Gold Medal from Dogington Post, an Internet newspaper that reaches some 2.6 million dog lovers each week, for its high quality. The award is said to “recognize and reward business, manufacturers and service dedicated to the health, wellness and responsible ownership of dogs.”

“I think this is a great cause,” Wiatt says. “First, it’s a great food. But it’s also the idea that this will save dogs. Food will be contributed to shelters. It’s an extraordinary cause. Who doesn’t like that? Who doesn’t want to save animals? So I think this is a great concept, and it actually performs.”

FreeHand, whose motto is “Lend a FreeHand,” is dedicated to ending the euthanasia of millions of animals each year because shelters can’t afford to feed and house them.

“We have tremendous momentum in building our brand in the first six months since our product launch,” says Tom Bagamane, FreeHand’s founder and managing director. “This is certain to increase with the acquisition of the company and with Ryan as one of the country’s most dynamic and successful businessmen, along with Britta’s huge heart and passion for abandoned animals.”

Kavanaugh says a few days ago he got a call at his office from Lazenga-Kavanaugh, a professional ballerina whom he wed in July 2011, to tell him she had rescued two more dogs, bringing the number of pooches in their home to six.

“My wife and I both are extremely passionate about rescues,” says Kavanaugh. “At the same time, [pet food] is now one of the fastest-growing business in the United States. It’s a $20 billion market that happens to be one of the only markets that since 1997 has grown at 10 percent a year consistently.”

Wiatt, who has two dogs at home, says he's motivated by the philanthropy but expects to make money on the venture. "A couple days ago, we rescued a dog," he says. "I think it's an important cause, and I’m proud to be involved with it. I think it’s also going to be a very big company.”