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Is James Packer Looking to Unload Stake in RatPac-Dune? (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 2/3/2017 Brent Lang
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James Packer, the billionaire backer of RatPac-Dune Entertainment, is quietly looking to unload his stake in the production and film financing company that he co-founded with director Brett Ratner, according to four individuals with knowledge of the matter. A rep for RatPac flatly denies that the Australian businessman is looking to divest his interest in the venture.

Steven Mnuchin, the other major investor in RatPac-Dune, recently promised to sell his holdings after being tapped to serve as U.S. Treasury Secretary under President Donald Trump. One insider said that there are interested parties who could buy out both Packer and Mnuchin’s stakes. RatPac-Dune has a co-financing and distribution deal with Warner Bros. covering 75 pictures, under which the Burbank studio relies on RatPac-Dune to provide 25% of the financing, except on “Harry Potter” films and their spin-offs.

“Both Brett Ratner and James Packer are absolutely, unequivocally staying in their investment deal with Warner Brothers,” said a spokesperson for the partners, who added that the two men remain close and have no reason to sever their business ties.

The films that the studio and financier have jointly paid for have had a mixed track record, with giant hits such as “The Lego Movie,” “American Sniper” and “Gravity,” alongside a number of big-budget box office misses like “Man From U.N.C.L.E,” “Black Mass,” “Pan” and the current release “Live By Night,” which lost tens of millions of dollars. The companies made money on their investments in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Suicide Squad,” and lower-budgeted horror hits such as “Conjuring 2” and “Annabelle.”

“Purely on the performance of our slate, they have been successful,” said Dee Dee Myers, chief corporate spokesperson for Warner Bros. “The slate has been profitable over the life of this relationship.” The Burbank studio said it had also benefited from the 3 1/2-year-old partnership.

But one individual close to the parties said the relationship between Ratner and Packer has frayed of late and that the duo have not been in close contact.

The RatPac spokesperson also denied that claim. “James is very involved. He and Brett are partners,” said the representative. “Nothing gets done without the two of them. They are very good friends. And James is not going anywhere.” Packer’s spokesperson also denied there was a rift between the two men.

Separately, Packer has been going through a tumultuous spell. He recently split with fiancee Mariah Carey, was the subject of a police investigation in Israel over allegations that he improperly gave gifts to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s family, and is facing a shareholder lawsuit against his company, Crown Resorts.

Packer has been managing several headaches stemming from Crown Resorts. The company’s shares were battered after reports hit that Chinese authorities had arrested several Crown employees for violating gambling laws. In the wake of the controversy, Packer rejoined the board of Crown Resorts.

Ratner and Packer also control a separate entity, RatPac Entertainment, a production and financing entity that operates with another credit facility. RatPac Entertainment was an investor in 20th Century Fox’s  award-winning frontier epic “The Revenant” and also in the ill-fated box office bomb “Rules Don’t Apply.” That Warren Beatty film, about billionaire Howard Hughes, also was released by Fox.

In recent years, RatPac Entertainment has also made films like “Truth,” about Dan Rather’s fall from CBS News after a disputed story on George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard and “I Saw the Light,” a Hank Williams biopic. Neither film broke through with audiences.

On the financial front, RatPac Entertainment is also partnered with China Media Capital in a Chinese Capital Fund,  which is “exclusively focused on capitalizing on the growth of media, entertainment and related industries targeted at the Chinese consumer,” according to the company’s website. RatPac and China Media have another fund that invests in Chinese language movies, TV, digital and live entertainment.

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