Relativity in $200 million loan from Ron Burkle

LOS ANGELES ( - Just weeks before the release of his first big-budget epic, “Immortals,” Relativity Media CEO Ryan Kavanaugh took a $200 million loan from billionaire Ron Burkle, TheWrap has learned.

The loan was obtained from Colbeck Capital Management, a fund in which Burkle has invested. The money was needed to help Relativity cover “Immortals’” multi-million marketing costs and also so that Relativity could continue to make movies, according to several individuals with knowledge of the loan.

The loan terms included giving Colbeck close to 5 percent of the gross box office receipts from “Immortals” and from Relativity’s upcoming Snow White epic, “Mirror, Mirror.”

Individuals close to the deal differed over how onerous the terms of the loan were. One person involved said the loan was obtained at an 8.5 percent interest rate, and defined the gross figure as coming only after advertising and production costs have been recouped.

But another person with knowledge of the deal said that the interest was at 15 percent, and that Colbeck would receive “first dollar gross,” meaning cash direct from box office receipts.

A spokesman for Relativity had no comment.

Colbeck Capital declined to comment.

At a cost of around $85 million, “Immortals” has so far taken in $69 million domestically since its November 11 release, and is on track to be a modest moneymaker for the studio.

But with prints and advertising costs running into the tens of millions of dollars, the studio needed cash ahead of release, and had secured it from another fund before striking the deal with Colbeck.

The involvement of Burkle, a Los Angeles billionaire with ongoing interest in the movie business, is a new wrinkle in the story of Relativity and its swashbuckling chief, Kavanaugh.

Burkle came close to buying Miramax with Harvey Weinstein two years ago, and currently co-finances movies with The Weinstein Company.

One individual close to the parties involved said that Burkle is circling a JP Morgan deal to buy out Elliott Management’s minority interest in Relativity. The investment bank has been quietly negotiating with Relativity for months to lead a $700 million investment in the company, a story that TheWrap broke in May. That deal has not yet closed.

If Burkle were to buy an equity stake as part of the JP Morgan deal, then presumably the loan would be renegotiated at more favorable terms.

Colbeck Capital Management is led by two former investment bankers, Jason Colodne and his partner Jason Beckman, who previously worked together sourcing and investing in distressed credit at Goldman Sachs.

Relativity has in the past year expanded to become a full-fledged independent studio, complete with a distribution system. The studio aims to produce 10 movies next year, including “Mirror, Mirror” in March, starring Julia Roberts in an stylized remake of the Snow White story.

Many in Hollywood have been skeptical of Kavanaugh’s ability to continue financing his ambitions for his studio, but the young mogul always seems to succeed in proving his naysayers wrong and find a new financial backer.

In May, Kavanaugh sought out JP Morgan senior banker Ryan O’Hara to buy out Elliott’s stake under a clause that gave him the option to do so at a certain price.

The move followed months of reports of tension between the independent studio and the hedge fund. Elliott, which manages some $15 billion in capital for institutional and private investors, has been Relativity’s primary financial backer as the company has grown from a production house to an independent movie distributor.

The hedge fund has been tightening the cash spigot on Relativity in recent months, making it hard for the studio to finance its slate, and to find the necessary cash to release its completed films.