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Coppola Files for Bankruptcy a Third Time

July 01, 1992|JOHN LIPPMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For the third time in nine years, filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola is bankrupt.

Coppola on Tuesday filed for Chapter 11 reorganization both personally and for his wholly owned Zoetrope Corp. and Zoetrope Productions.

The latest bankruptcy filing in Federal Court in San Francisco caps a decade of financial turmoil for the famous director, whose films include "Apocalypse Now" and "The Godfather" trilogy.

Coppola's financial and legal problems stem from 1982, when the glitzy neon musical "One From the Heart" turned out to be a costly flop.

Through a series of complicated financial transactions triggered by the failure of the film, Coppola owes his longtime partner and co-producer Fred Roos a total of $71 million.

Roos is now the major creditor in Coppola's three-part bankruptcy filing, which lists total liabilities of $98 million and assets of $53 million. A spokeswoman for Coppola said all of the other creditors will be paid in full.

In a reorganization plan that Coppola submitted along with his bankruptcy filing, the filmmaker proposed that Roos would receive a 25% equity stake in Zoetrope Corp. and a 15% stake in Zoetrope Productions.

Coppola said that filing for Chapter 11 protection "will finally let us resolve all remaining debts and obligations stemming from this film."

Coppola said the bankruptcy filing does not affect another company of his, American Zoetrope, which is producing the upcoming $40-million Columbia Pictures film "Dracula," starring Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder, set for release this fall.

Coppola has filed for bankruptcy on two other occasions since 1983, although each time he has eventually emerged from Chapter 11 proceedings.

The most recent filing was in January, 1990, when Zoetrope Corp. and Zoetrope Productions listed debts of $28.9 million and assets of $22.2 million. Six months later, a judge dismissed the case after Coppola worked out a plan to pay his debts.

Previously, in 1983, Coppola filed for both personal bankruptcy and on behalf of one of his companies, Hollywood General Studios, an 8.6-acre studio lot in Hollywood that he purchased for $5.6 million.

Coppola's financial problems date back to the early 1980s and his decision to finance "One From the Heart" out of his own pocket.

The film, a glitzy musical production where Las Vegas street scenes were re-created in Zoetrope's studios, cost $25 million to make but generated only about $8 million in revenue.

"One From the Heart" was financed by Chase Manhattan Bank and Alan Singer, a Canadian real estate developer. Subsequently, Coppola's associate, Fred Roos, bought the note from Chase Manhattan.

After the film failed, Singer forced Coppola into bankruptcy in 1990 to recover his investment. He eventually acquired Zoetrope's Hollywood production studios in a foreclosure sale.

But Roos, whose note was valued at about $35 million when he acquired it at a discount from Chase Manhattan, is now owed $71 million by Coppola due to accumulated interest.

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