New York funding agency KKR started its outstanding German shopping for spree in 2019. When it was completed, one of many world’s greatest movie and TV markets regarded dramatically totally different. The bold studio it created, Leonine, is an accumulation of firms, together with movie and TV powerhouse TMG, movie distributor Universum, Darkish producers Wiedemann & Berg—one among Germany’s main TV manufacturing labels—and a number of factual indies.
Final 12 months, the corporate bought additional funding from pan-European media entity Mediawan Alliance (which is backed by KKR and French funding agency MACSF), then they moved into a brand new Munich HQ and launched a TV gross sales enterprise with the 10-part worldwide motion collection Professionals, starring Brendan Fraser. This week, Mediawan and Leonine introduced their acquisition of a controlling stake in UK TV firm Drama Republic.
With Four Films In Cannes, Léa Seydoux Will Rule The Croisette – Interview
One of the talked-about new firms in Europe, Leonine has a library of hundreds, and spectacular pulling energy. The agency’s clout has already been delivered to bear in movie markets, the place it’s acquired main titles, together with Knives Out, John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum and Roland Emmerich’s upcoming Moonfall.
Consolidation on greater floor is sensible in a market the place the streamers are rising apace. Leonine’s CEO Fred Kogel (pictured)–previously of ZDF, ProSieben and Constantin—discusses the agency’s fast rise, and the way COVID-19 has impacted enterprise and progress plans.
DEADLINE: Let’s return to the start. Why did it make sense to launch Leonine and what have been the primary obstacles?
FRED KOGEL: Once we discuss beginnings, that may be early 2018: two years earlier than Covid, however a couple of years into the huge digital disruption we’ve seen within the leisure business. My thought was very clear. I knew there can be an increasing number of streamers. That’s the irreversible megatrend, and the way that content material is consumed. It was all the time necessary for me to construct the corporate for the digital world.
There was going to be a necessity for native content material for the streamers getting into Germany, in addition to quantity for the broadcasters who can be competing. In my earlier 25-year profession nearly all the pieces had all the time ended on the German, Austrian, or Swiss borders, however for the primary time, there was an opportunity that German content material might journey internationally, as a result of we’ve the standard of individuals and initiatives in Germany, and the streamers give us a worldwide platform.
DEADLINE: To what extent did you are feeling trepidation in regards to the enterprise, or that there can be a goal in your again?
KOGEL: When it comes to the psychology of it, to be sincere, it was a aid. I had based Kogel & Schmidt and Constantin Leisure beforehand, however I’d by no means labored with a non-public fairness investor earlier than. That made it a reasonably unemotional, clear path. It was an incredible expertise.
DEADLINE: How did you first meet the KKR staff?
KOGEL: I first met the KKR guys in 2006 or 2007. They requested me if I used to be fascinated about doing a unique job, however I needed to go as a result of I used to be with Constantin at the moment and was not able to get out of my contract. We had conferences from the mid-2000s onwards, however there was by no means the proper venture to collaborate on.
On the finish of 2017, [KKR co-head of European private equity] Philipp Freise and I bought collectively once more. We mentioned the panorama, and we agreed that there might be one thing we might do. Then I sat down for 3, 4 months engaged on an idea, which required a sure dimension and high quality, and adhering to sure traits of the German market.
DEADLINE: The corporate’s M&A has been well-documented. However the place is Leonine immediately? What are the primary priorities for the corporate?
KOGEL: The primary three years was about bringing the businesses collectively and doing a full integration. Now we’re full-steam on progress once more. This is available in two kinds. Firstly, by natural progress in manufacturing, in our fiction and non-fiction firms, and likewise progress in our distribution models, particularly digital distribution. The second half is inorganic progress. We need to M&A once more and we’re getting ready for that. We need to develop larger. As you realize, final 12 months we got here along with our sister firm Mediawan to provide us a broader European perspective.
Our key goal is to turn into the primary unbiased manufacturing and distribution firm in Germany. I don’t assume we’re far-off from that. However we’re working very arduous and really humble on daily basis in that concentrate on.
DEADLINE: What sort of M&A may we see?
KOGEL: Will probably be necessary to develop in fictional manufacturing through firms that make premium TV collection. That is one thing we’re on the lookout for. We’re wanting not solely in Germany but additionally at different European targets. This will likely be our foremost focus.
DEADLINE: To what extent has Covid knocked the corporate off its stride and dented the underside line?
KOGEL: In the long run, thank God, not very a lot. In fact, Covid hit us in theatrical revenues, however we had an excellent 12 months final 12 months by way of manufacturing, and particularly in nonfiction manufacturing. There was an enormous want for content material. Our house leisure and licensing divisions additionally did effectively. Our built-in mannequin actually helps.
DEADLINE: You had mentioned you needed to launch 20 movies a 12 months theatrically, so lockdown should have harm a little bit.
KOGEL: Sure, we had needed to do 20 movies. We’ll launch 10 movies within the second half of this 12 months. We predict we may have a blockbuster 12 months in 2022.
DEADLINE: There may be expectation that personal fairness companies will promote on their funding in some unspecified time in the future, typically after a 5 to seven-year span of progress. Is it potential that Leonine is nearly 50% by its life cycle of being a KKR-backed firm?
KOGEL: It’s true that that may be a widespread life span for personal fairness companies, however as a administration staff we’ve by no means thought by way of when KKR’s exit will likely be. We’re very a lot targeted on the following stage of progress.
DEADLINE: When it comes to the corporate’s income, roughly what share comes from TV and what number comes from movie?
KOGEL: We differentiate by way of manufacturing, distribution and licensing. Thus far the segments are very balanced, nevertheless the manufacturing section is gaining important weight. Inside the manufacturing section fiction manufacturing accounts for the biggest slice.
DEADLINE: Which initiatives on the slate are you most enthusiastic about?
KOGEL: Now we have an enormous TV venture known as The Gryphon that we’re doing for Amazon, and we’ve the Bayern Munich documentary collection additionally for Amazon. When it comes to theatrical motion pictures, it’s Borderlands, the franchise that we purchased from Lionsgate. That’s one among our main motion pictures. In fact, there’s additionally Moonfall, which is due for launch early subsequent 12 months. We even have some native German collection, together with Krass Klassenfahrt, which is predicated on a profitable German YouTube collection, and contains a forged of influencers. We’re additionally lining up some non-fiction initiatives for the streamers.