Former Universal co-chairman David Linde unveils new film company backed by India’s Reliance

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Former Universal Pictures co-chairman David Linde has unveiled his new independent film finance and production company, the latest Hollywood venture to be backed by India’s Reliance Entertainment.

A spokesman for Linde declined to disclose details of the deal with Reliance, including how much capital the company is investing in the yet-to-be-named venture and what its ownership stake is.

Reliance Entertainment, a division of the Indian media conglomerate, has been stepping up its investment in Hollywood over the past several years.

The company provided half the funding for Steven Spielberg’s newly independent DreamWorks Studios after it split from parent Paramount Pictures, and has business partnerships with production companies run by such high-profile industry figures as partners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, Tom Hanks, George Clooney and Brad Pitt.


Under the deal, Linde’s company will fund and produce one to three studio-sized movies a year. Universal Pictures will have the first right of refusal to co-finance and distribute the films in the U.S. and certain foreign countries. For films that Universal passes on domestically, Linde will attempt to produce and distribute them with rival studios.

Linde, who has a long history in the independent film business with a specialty in foreign sales, has also finalized distribution deals with select international territories, including Canada, the U.K., Latin America and Germany.

Reliance will handle distribution of the films in India.

Linde’s company is one of a growing number of independent ventures to emerge over the past year that have the ability to finance films and partner with studios to market and release them. Others include FilmDistrict, headed by former Sony executive Peter Schlessel and backed by producer Graham King, and Skydance Films, run by David Ellison, son of billionaire Larry Ellison.

Linde was co-chairman of Universal Pictures from 2006 until 2009, when he and fellow chairman Marc Shmuger were fired following a run of costly box office flops, reports of internal strife and a desire by their boss, Universal Studios president Ron Meyer, to shake up his leadership team. Prior to taking the top movie job at Universal, Linde was co-president of the studio’s independent film unit Focus Features.

Joining Linde’s new senior management team are Tory Metzger as production president and former Universal digital executive Adam Rymer as chief operating officer.

-- Ben Fritz