U.K. Investment Firm New Sparta Acquires Icon Film Distribution

Only God Forgives

Ryan Gosling and Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn reunite for Only God Forgives, which stars Gosling as Julian, an exiled American running a boxing club in Thailand as a front for a drug business.

The firm will relaunch with its former executive team after the deal, which includes titles released through an output deal with Lionsgate, such as Nicolas Winding Refn’s Cannes entry "Only God Forgives."

LONDON -- Private investment group New Sparta has snapped up Icon Film Distribution (IFD), the U.K. distribution operation owned and operated by Icon U.K. Group.

Icon U.K. Group CEO Aviv Giladi and Jerome Booth, the founder of New Sparta said Monday that Booth's investment company has bought the operation in association with a management team led by IFD CEO Ian Dawson and the distribution label's COO Norman Humphrey.

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The purchase, which includes titles released though IFD’s output deal with Lionsgate and the U.K. library, will see IFD once again begin acquiring films for all media.

Under the new ownership, IFD aims to work with existing and new partners.

Dawson will be CEO at IFD, with Humphrey joining IFD as executive chairman and COO.

The acquisition was negotiated by Booth, Nicki Hattingh, David Baxter and Chris Raeder of New Sparta, along with Giladi, Estelle Overs and Osman Mustafa of Icon U.K. Group. It includes both Icon Film Distribution (U.K.) and Icon Home Entertainment (U.K.).

The IFD team that includes head of theatrical Zak Brilliant, head of home entertainment Ray Primett and operations manager Sarah Brady will gain new members over the coming months, the new owners said.

As part of the new management agreement, IFD will have access to an undisclosed amount of funding through New Sparta for the acquisition of film distribution rights and P+A finance.

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Booth will join Dawson and Humphrey on IFD's new look board.

Said Booth: "IFD is a successful, well established and respected film distribution company, and we very much look forward to working with Ian and Norman to build this business into the U.K.’s premier distribution company of choice for high quality and commercially successful film production companies."

Dawson promised to "reestablish Icon Film Distribution as a truly independent U.K. film company with a talented, passionate team working closely with film makers to bring quality, distinctive material to U.K. audiences."

Giladi said he was delighted with the New Sparta acquisition of Icon's U.K. distribution business "whilst we at Icon U.K. Group continue to focus on our growing film finance and production slate."

IFD's upcoming U.K. titles, some of which will be or have recently been released via its Lionsgate output deal, include the big-screen debut for Postman Pat in Postman Pat: The Movie, featuring the voices of Stephen Mangan, David Tennant and Rupert GrintNicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, starring Ryan Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas; horror movie You’re Next; and the forthcoming thriller Demonic, directed by James Wan and starring Maria Bello.

Icon U.K. Group, led by Giladi, is currently co-financing and co-producing movies through its production arm, Len Blavatnik’s AI Film.

Its first project, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, has grossed over $100 million to date.

AI Film recently unveiled plans for the Sherlock Holmes mystery A Slight Trick of the Mind during the Toronto Film Festival to be directed by Bill Condon and starring Ian McKellen. Also on its slate is Martin Scorsese’s Silence set to shoot next year alongside Rocketman, the film chronicling the journey of pop music legend Elton John.

On the transaction, New Sparta was repped by Harbottle and Lewis; Icon U.K. Group was represented by Olswang; and Dawson and Humphrey were repped by Lee & Thompson.