Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are in discussions to sell a majority stake in their film and television production company, Imagine Entertainment, to the investment firm, Centricus Asset Management Ltd. The London-based firm may pay between $600 million to $800 million for a minimum 70 percent stake in the company, the Wall Street Journal is reporting. The negotiations between the company and firm are accelerating, but it’s not yet certain that a deal between them will definitely happen.
Imagine Entertainment, which is one of Hollywood’s largest independent content producers, is currently valued at more than $800 million. But it has still been looking for a capital infusion through an equity sale over the past several months.
Centricus, which has $35 billion in assets under management, is known for investing in financial services, technology, infrastructure, media and sports businesses. The firm was co-founded in 2016 by Nizar Al-Bassam and Dalinc Ariburnu.
The news that Centricus may buy the majority stake in Imagine Entertainment comes after investors and potential buyers initially took interest in the company, which was founded by Howard and Grazer in 1985, last summer. The interested investor at that time included an unnamed Middle East sovereign wealth fund, international banks and a domestic private equity firm.
Imagine Entertainment’s assets include the New York-based indie production shingle, Jax Media, which is known for producing such popular television shows as Emily in Paris, Russian Doll, Younger and Broad City. Imagine Entertainment also has a majority stake in Alex Gibney’s documentaries division, Jigsaw Productions, which has produced such titles as NatGeo’s Rebuilding Paradise, which was directed by Howard, Sony Pictures Classics’ Julia and Apple’s Who Are You, Charlie Brown?
Other titles in Imagine Entertainment’s library include such Howard movies as Backdraft and Apollo 13, as well as such television series as 24, Arrested Development, Friday Night Lights and Empire. The two-time Oscar-winning filmmaker is also set to direct his first animated feature, The Shrinking of Treehorn, for Paramount. There’s also a show based on the helmer’s 1988 dark fantasy drama, Willow, in development at Disney+.
The production company is also known for its incubator lab for creatives, Imagine Impact. The lab helps accelerates the script development process by removing bias in the submission process.
If a deal between Imagine Entertainment and Centricus is made, Howard and Grazer will remain shareholders in, and Imagine’s executives will continue to provide creative output for, the production company. Merchant bank Raine Group, which currently owns 51 percent of Imagine and has invested $100 million in the company since 2016, will also continue to own shares of the business if a deal with Centricus is made.
Grazer and Howard have been producing partners for nearly 40 years. The pair have long maintained their independence at Imagine Entertainment, even when they partner with major studios for film and television projects.