Universal Rejects Bid by Media Rights Capital to Buy Focus Features

Exclusive: Negotiations ongoing for the past month, fell apart last week

Last Updated: March 16, 2010 @ 8:23 AM

Exclusive: 

Universal Studios has rejected overtures from Media Rights Capital, the film finance and production company of Mordecai Wiczyk and Asif Satchu, to buy Focus Features, the studio’s independent movie division, according to individuals with knowledge of the negotiations. 

The negotiations fell apart last week, according to two individuals close to the talks.

MRC, which has packaged and sold films to Universal including "Bruno" and the in-production Matt Damon thriller, "The Adjustment Bureau," had been in talks over the past month to buy the division which has released such award-winning films as "Brokeback Mountain," "The Pianist" and "Traffic." 

The negotiations come at a time of frenzied negotiation in Hollywood over billions of dollars worth of movie companies that are currently for sale — from MGM to Starz Media to Disney-owned MIramax.

Universal has not formally sought to sell Focus, but the company, run by James Schamus and Andrew Karpen, is in transition with the sale of NBC-Universal to Comcast. Moreover, the division had few hits at the past year, releasing low earners like "A Serious Man," "Sin Nombre" and one genuine flop in "Taking Woodstock." 

Executive there say it remains profitable, and that Universal was seeking in the range of $500 million for the studio and its library.

It’s not clear if Wizcyk and Satchu had that kind of appetite for Focus. By comparison, Disney has been seeking about $700 million for MIramax.

"It’s not going to happen," said one executive close to the situation, spekaing of the potential sale. 

Universal is in the process of changing owners, from General Electric to Comcast. That shift is expected to win approval from the federal government and be completed in nine to 12 months.

MRC had pursued a television strategy that proved challenging, and has turned to film as its next big play.

A spokeswoman for Universal had no immediate comment. MRC had no comment.