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Ron Burkle may ride to Ryan Kavanaugh’s rescue in a bid for Relativity Media

Ryan Kavanaugh, chief executive of bankrupt film and TV studio Relativity Media.

Ryan Kavanaugh, chief executive of bankrupt film and TV studio Relativity Media.

(Paul A. Hebert / Invision/Associated Press)

Supermarket magnate Ron Burkle may have joined Ryan Kavanaugh’s last-minute bid for Relativity Media’s film assets.

But even that probably won’t keep Kavanaugh in charge of the bankrupt company he founded, said a prominent Los Angeles investment banker who knows Burkle and has been following the case.

The discussions, which were expected to continue Friday, could keep Kavanaugh in control of Relativity’s film assets, which are seen as less attractive to potential buyers than the troubled company’s television business. Burkle has previously invested in Relativity when it was cash-strapped, and has a seat on its board.

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But Lloyd Greif, chief executive of Los Angeles investment banking firm Greif & Co., said Burkle would end up calling the shots in the event of a successful bid, though it would still be an opportunity for mini-mogul Kavanaugh to save face.

“The power behind the throne will be Ron,” Greif said.

Representatives for Burkle and Relativity did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The potential Burkle bid was first reported by Hollywood trade Variety.

Beverly Hills-based Relativity Media, known for movies like “Immortals” and “Act of Valor,” went to Bankruptcy Court this summer in hopes of finding a buyer after failing to come up with the money to pay down its debt.

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A Thursday auction for the troubled film and television studio failed to produce any bids for the whole company that matched the $250-million starting price offered by a group of Relativity’s creditors in August.

Instead, the company is likely to be sold in pieces.

The senior lenders behind the so-called stalking horse bid -- Anchorage Capital Group, Luxor Capital Group and Falcon Investment Advisors -- will likely end up with control of at least the television business.

Burkle and Kavanaugh have long had a professional relationship. But that doesn’t mean Kavanaugh will have control of the entities they acquire, Greif said.

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“Ryan and Ron may be friends,” he said, “but this is business so Ron’s going to approach it that way.”

Burkle may be most attracted to Relativity’s minority stakes in the Relativity Sports agency business and the joint venture Relativity EuropaCorp Distribution, Greif said.

Relativity lacks a robust film library, which is a major weight on the value of its movies business. The company has released hits like “Limitless,” but a series of box-office bombs and its large debt load drove it to file Chapter 11.

Its TV business produces reality shows like MTV’s “Catfish” and the scripted CBS series “Limitless,” based on the 2011 Bradley Cooper movie.

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Filings listed the whole company’s total liabilities at $1.18 billion at the end of last year, more than double the $560-million book value of its assets.

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

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