Walt Disney Co. said today it formed a film production financing partnership worth at least $600 million, backed largely by Japanese investors.
For five years, Disney has limited its filmmaking risk--along with its potential profits--by raising about $1 billion through limited partnerships with mainly U.S. investors.
The last of those, Silver Screen IV, will conclude as planned, Disney said. Then the new partnership, Touchwood Pacific Partners I, will become the main source of finance for all live-action films at Disney's three studios--Disney, Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures.
"The whole film business has been becoming more global," said Disney spokesman Erwin Okun. "And, frankly, the Japanese provided better terms."
The deal is another example of Hollywood's allure for the Japanese. Last year, Sony Corp. bought Columbia Pictures Entertainment Inc. for $3.4 billion and Victor Co. of Japan agreed to invest $100 million in Largo Entertainment, a film company headed by former 20th Century Fox President Lawrence Gordon.
Recently, MCA Inc. has been talking with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. about a buyout worth as much as $8.6 billion.
And just last month, Disney reached an agreement for a unit of Nomura Securities to provide up to $200 million in financing over four years for movies made for Disney by Interscope, an independent production company.
The latest Disney deal marks the largest infusion yet of Japanese money into a major Hollywood studio short of acquisition.
Touchwood Pacific is a U.S. partnership. Its $600-million financing, however, will be based on $180 million raised from Japanese investors who buy limited partnerships through an affiliate of Yamaichi Securities, a leading Japanese securities firm.
In addition to that equity, another $420 million will take the form of a line of credit from a consortium of banks led by Citibank. Banks involved include Fuji Bank Ltd., Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan Ltd., and Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co.