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Michael Eisner's Tornante Co. in deal with Universal Pictures

November 13, 2012|By Dawn C. Chmielewski
  • Former Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Michael Eisner signed a multi-year film distribution deal with Universal Pictures. The larger studio will market and distribute films financed by Eisner's Tornante.
Former Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Michael Eisner signed a multi-year… (Stephen Brashear / Associated…)

After years spent investing in digital media, former Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Michael D. Eisner is returning to his roots -- moviemaking.

Eisner's Tornante Co. has reached a multiyear global film distribution deal with Universal Pictures in which the larger studio will market and distribute movies financed by Tornante.

The first of the feature films anticipated under this deal would be released by the end of 2013 or early 2014, Eisner said.

At a time when the major Hollywood studios are making fewer feature films and relying increasingly on sequels and big-budget event movies, Eisner said he sees an opportunity in original stories.

"I’m not locked in to a certain genre," Eisner said. "I do like high-concept movies. I do like efficiently made movies. I do like dealing with new talent in front of the camera and behind the cameras."

During Eisner's two-decade long-career as chief executive of Disney, the film studio released the first installment of its billion-dollar "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie franchise, and such box-office successes as "The Sixth Sense," "The Santa Clause" and "Armageddon."

As president of Paramount Pictures, he oversaw such hits as "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Saturday Night Fever" and "Terms of Endearment."

"I basically am doing this for one reason -- I like making movies, I like creating new content," Eisner said. "It's not an economic journey, though I hope it’s successful. It’s not a journey to continue to be relevant. I enjoy the process."

CNBC reported last May that Eisner was trying to raise $800 million for a new film and television production company, in a fundraising effort led by JP Morgan.

Eisner declined to comment on this financing effort, saying the discussions are "confidential."

“Michael Eisner has been a powerful creative force behind some of the world’s greatest films and we’re confident that with Tornante, he’ll continue that tradition,” said Universal Pictures Chairman Adam Fogelson and co-Chairman Donna Langley, in an e-mailed statement.  “Our organization is the perfect partner for Tornante and we look forward to bringing quality commercial films to the global marketplace together.” 

Tornante Co., which Eisner founded after leaving Disney in 2005, invests in, acquires and operates companies in media and entertainment. (Its name is said to mean "sharp turn" in Italian. Tornante's Vuguru studio develops and finances scripted digital series, including "The Booth at the End" on Hulu and "Little Women Big Cars" on AOL. 

Eisner's Tornante and Madison Dearborn Partners in 2007 acquired Topps Co., the venerable maker of sports trading cards.  

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