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China’s Recon Buys 51% of Avi Lerner’s Millennium Films for $100 Million

Variety logo Variety 2/23/2017 Dave McNary
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China’s Recon Holding has reached an agreement to acquire a 51% stake in Avi Lerner’s independent production company Millennium Films for $100 million.

The announcement was made Thursday, nine days after reports had emerged that a deal was in the works.

Recon Holding is controlled by Recon Group, a multinational conglomerate which owns the Aston Villa Football Club and is led by Tony Jiantong Xia. It said that the deal should close in the second quarter.

Millennium is an action specialist with its key properties being the Sylvester Stallone franchises “The Expendables” and “Rambo” along with the films “Olympus Has Fallen” and “London Has Fallen.” Millennium has generated over $1.2 billion in worldwide box office revenues since 2011.

The company’s upcoming film slate includes “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L, Jackson; “Escobar,” starring Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz; and “Hunter Killer,” starring Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman.

“Since Avi and his partners founded the company, the Millennium Films organization has created a dynamic film brand and a deep library of intellectual property that resonates with audiences on a global scale,” said Xia, who will become chairman of the company.

“We believe Millennium’s unparalleled portfolio of motion picture franchises and intellectual property provides significant opportunities for long-term growth as the company continues to maximize the value of its creative properties across multiple platforms and in multiple territories. This is an incredible opportunity for us to build upon Millennium’s premium brand by accessing a film market in China that continues to experience a period of unprecedented growth.”

The deal also covers the Millennium Films library, which has nearly 300 titles. Lerner will act as Chief Executive Officer of Millennium Films, while Trevor Short will serve as Chief Operating Officer. Recon Holding said Thursday it will have the opportunity to acquire the remaining 49% of Millennium in the future but gave no timetable.

“We are excited about our new partnership with Recon Holding led by Tony” said Lerner and Short in a statement. “China is emerging as the world’s largest market for premium filmed entertainment, and we see enormous value in placing the Chinese market at the forefront of our global strategy. Our films have experienced considerable success in China and in other markets around the world, and we feel there is significant value in partnering with an astute, experienced, and well-connected partner to help us execute our long-term strategy of making commercial movies for the global market place.”

Millennium Films was advised by The Raine Group and Latham & Watkins LLP. Amir Malin of Qualia Capital also provided advice and counsel. Recon Holding was advised by China International Capital Corporation and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. David Eisman of the Los Angeles office of Skadden, Arps led the deal for Recon Group.

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