There is hope for happily ever after between China and US deals!
The IM Global and Tang Media deal is a great example and we spoke to Stuart Ford recently to gain better insight into how.
Founder and CEO of IM Global
Winston Baker: It’s almost been a year since your deal with Tang Media Partners closed. How has it been?
Stuart Ford: It’s really been a year of two halves. The first 6 months of 2016 were dominated by the push to close the investment deal, facilitate TMP’s due diligence, set up the IMGTV joint venture with Tencent and launch our TV production fund. The second half of the year was all about new growth – we launched an unscripted division (led by Emmy Award winning producer Phil Gurin), made our first scripted TV investments and revamped our film production infrastructure (under Academy Award winning producer Greg Shapiro). In around all of that activity we delivered around a dozen new finished movies to the marketplace and latterly enjoyed a worldwide hit with “Hacksaw Ridge” which had been one of our biggest ever investments.
Winston Baker: Amazing! Looking back, what were some of the necessary steps in IM Global closing the deal with Tang Media?
Stuart Ford: As a result of our partnership since 2010 with a major corporation like Reliance (still a shareholder in the company) we had done a lot of “growing up” as a business in the preceding 3-4 years. Having solid financial management, properly audited accounts and a professional legal and rights management operation were fundamental to closing a deal like this. I’d also say that launching our scripted TV business two years previously under Mark Stern gave us an important existing foundation to build the TV joint and the TV production fund on top of it.
Winston Baker: What lessons did you and the IM Global team learn throughout the deal-making process?
Stuart Ford: Not that we didn’t know it already, but everything always takes longer than you think it will!
Winston Baker: Hah – so true! What advice do you have for executives out there setting their companies up for a possible merger or acquisition, in particular with China?
Stuart Ford: Choose and vet your prospective partners very carefully. Fluid communication, geographical proximity and clearly identified and articulated goals are all fundamental. You have to try and focus not just on what it will take to get the deal closed but how the relationship is going to function and prosper afterwards.
Winston Baker: Great advice. What message do you hope to send to other company’s looking to do business with China?
Stuart Ford: We weren’t the first independent company to close an investment deal with Chinese capital partners. We certainly won’t be the last. But I think the fact that there were a quintet of big companies involved (TMP’s shareholders include Tencent, Huayi Brothers, China Media Capital and Sequoia Asia) in the deal, plus the transaction involving a substantial TV production component and also Chinese partners investing in the global distribution sector all bode well for future Hollywood deals.
Winston Baker: Would IM Global’s TV venture with China’s Tencent have been possible without Tang Media?
Stuart Ford: No. Tencent was an existing TMP partner and TMP introduced us at a much higher corporate level within Tencent than we previously had encountered as well as structuring the TV fund component.
Winston Baker: As we start off a new year, what are some goals you have for the company?
Stuart Ford: An enhanced film production slate alongside hopefully a slew of both scripted and non-scripted productions. Further growth to our industry leading Chinese and Latin film sales businesses. Maybe a little less long-haul travel!