Warner Bros. invests more in SCi Entertainment

Will also handle N. American distribution for 'Tomb Raider'

SAN DIEGO--Warner Bros. made another major investment in the video game space Friday, boosting its stake in London-based SCi Entertainment from 10.3% to 20%.

In addition Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) will also take over North American distribution for all SCi/Eidos Entertainment titles, including the “Tomb Raider” franchise, going forward. 

“This investment underscores Warner Bros' commitment to becoming a major player in the video game business,” Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group, said in a statement.

Another major SCi investor, real estate mogul Robert Tchenguiz, also took advantage of the new public offering by SCi to raise his stake in the company to 22%.

All told, SCi raised just under $119 million by issuing new shares in London that were priced 38% below Thursday's closing price, SCi said in a statement.

SCi, parent company of Eidos Entertainment, has been struggling in recent years as interest in older franchises such as “Tomb” slowed, while several other costly titles were scrapped before ever reaching shelves.

The cupboard is not bare, however, with still solid franchises such as “Deus Ex,” “Hitman,” “Kane & Lynch” and the upcoming online-only title “Age of Conan.” As a result, SCi has been the subject of numerous takeover rumors in recent weeks.

One fallout from the new round of investment is the departure of Bill Gardner as CEO of Eidos North America. The WBIE takeover of distribution--as well as marketing and public relations--in North America left the veteran gaming executive with no role going forward.
Gardner declined comment.

SCi CEO Phil Rogers said in a statement, "The new financing puts us in a clear position to deliver on the strategic business plan which we announced in February with focus on cornerstone studios and core franchises, delivering high-quality, world class games."

The move is also beneficial to WBIE, giving it a high profile publisher to add to its North American distribution roster that already includes Codemasters, Empire Interactive and Brash Entertainment.