Bob Johnson In Talks to Buy Image Entertainment (Exclusive)

A final deal is still weeks away, says an insider

Bob Johnson, the founder of BET, is in talks to buy Image Entertainment, a home entertainment company with a deep library specializing in content for the African-American community, TheWrap has learned.

A spokeswoman for Image Entertainment confirmed that Johnson was in talks to buy the company, but said a deal was still several weeks away. “They are in talks,” said the spokeswoman, without offering further detail.

A spokesman for Johnson could not immediately be reached. 

A publicly traded company, Image Entertainment (NASDAQ: DISK) produces, distributes and licenses film & television productions in North America. It boasts more than 3,700 owned or licensed titles. The company’s revenues decreased 4.4% in 2011 to $88,959,000 from $93,070,000 for fiscal 2010, according to the company’s annual report. Its profit margin increased to 23% compared to 20.1% the year before.

The library includes feature films from brands such as the Criterion Collection, and a varied archive of television programs, music, comedy and audio content. The company has distinguished itself by being among the first to buy up digital rights to many classic movies.

Also read: BET Gets New Competition for 'Desperately Underserved' Black Audiences

Johnson (left), the founder of Black Entertainment Television, is one of the nation’s few African-American billionaires. In 2003 Viacom bought BET from Johnson for $3 billion.

Johnson is chairman of RLJ Development and former majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, an NBA franchise. Johnson has more than once announced his plans to own an African-American-oriented movie studio, though the vision has never come to fruition.

For many of its titles, Image has exclusive audio and broadcast rights and commands digital download rights to approximately 2,000 video programs and over 300 audio programs containing more than 4,500 tracks.

On November 20, 2008 Image struck a merger agreement with Nyx Acquisitions. The deal to sell Image was valued at approximately $100 million, including the assumption of the company’s outstanding debt.