China's Fosun Is Said to Explore Sale of Hollywood Studio Stake

(Bloomberg) -- Fosun Group, backed by billionaire Guo Guangchang, has explored options for its stake in Hollywood production house Studio 8 Inc. including a sale, according to people familiar with the matter.

The insurance-to-pharmaceutical conglomerate has approached investors to discuss possibly disposing its stake as well as financing for films Studio 8 is producing, said the people, who asked not to be identified because details are private. Fosun values the studio, which it bought about three years ago, at as much as $1 billion, one of the people said.

Fosun is not in formal talks with the potential suitors and may decide to retain its holding, according to the people. The group has 80 percent equity interest in Studio 8’s Class A investors, which, in turn, own 60 percent of the company, a filing shows. A representative for Studio 8 declined to comment. Fosun is “very supportive and continues to be committed to Studio 8 as a long-term strategic shareholder,” the company said in an email.

Shanghai-based Fosun, which owns stakes in Club Med and Cirque du Soleil, is among China’s most acquisitive firms. It’s also among the companies that have come under scrutiny amid a crackdown on outbound deals that the government deems “irrational.” This month Fosun entered exclusive talks to acquire Italian lingerie maker La Perla and agreed to buy part of China’s Tsingtao Brewery Co.

Studio 8’s founder Jeff Robinov is a former executive at Warner Bros. Pictures, where he helped oversee films including “The Dark Knight” trilogy, “The Hangover” franchise and “Inception.” The Culver City, California-based company also released “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” directed by Ang Lee. The movie, based on a novel about a U.S. soldier returning from Iraq and shot with advanced technology, performed poorly at the global box office.

The production house, established in 2014, has $1 billion of financing and was funded in partnership with Fosun and Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., its website shows. Sony invested an undisclosed amount in Studio 8 in 2014 and agreed to distribute as many as six films a year for the studio. Studio 8 is releasing two films in 2018, crime drama “White Boy Rick,” starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Matthew McConaughey, and “Alpha.” The company has nine more titles under development, according to IMDB Pro.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Jing Yang de Morel in Shanghai at jyang543@bloomberg.net, Jonathan Browning in Hong Kong at jbrowning9@bloomberg.net.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

With assistance from Jing Yang de Morel, Jonathan Browning