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BET Founder Robert L. Johnson to Buy Image Entertainment and Acorn Media to Form RLJ Entertainment

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 2, 2012 at 4:17PM

Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson, chairman of RLJ Companies, has agreed to acquire home video distributor Image Entertainment and Brit DVD/streaming company Acorn Media Group. The new company will be called RLJ Entertainment, Inc; Johnson will serve as its Executive Chairman.
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BET's Robert L. Johnson
BET's Robert L. Johnson

Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson, chairman of RLJ Companies, has agreed to acquire 25-year-old home video distributor Image Entertainment and 28-year-old Brit DVD/streaming company Acorn Media Group. The new Los Angeles-based public company will be called RLJ Entertainment, Inc; Johnson will serve as its Executive Chairman.

California's Image Entertainment is "a leader in the urban, independent film, comedy, and horror genres," said Johnson in a statement. Image offers 3,700 exclusive DVD titles and approximately 350 exclusive CD titles in domestic release and more than 450 programs internationally via sublicense agreements; they release digital content through Netflix, Hulu and iTunes. “RLJ Entertainment will have a broad strategy for financial growth by providing content to all media platforms including broadcast and cable, DVD and Blu-Ray, digital downloads, and digital streaming."

Ted Green, Chairman and CEO of Image Entertainment, will serve as the Chief Executive Officer of RLJ Entertainment.

Silver Spring, Maryland company Acorn Media, which boasts a vast library of Brit TV series, and recently acquired a 64 percent stake in the Agatha Christie literary estate (40 television movies, 19 plays and more than 80 novels), will continue to be run by founder Peter Edwards, who will also serve as Vice Chairman of RLJ Entertainment. (TOH recently covered Acorn here).

Combined, the two media businesses would create one of the largest global indie distributors of digital and video content. Eventually, RLJ expects to trade shares of the new company on the NASDAQ Stock Market. More details from their press release:

Under the terms of the agreements, the holders of common stock of Image Entertainment will receive from RLJ Entertainment 2,139,000 shares of common stock of RLJ Entertainment and the holders of preferred stock of Image Entertainment will receive aggregate consideration of $22,600,000, which will be paid in cash and in the form of promissory notes to the holders of preferred stock of Image Entertainment. The shareholders of Acorn Media Group will receive $105 million in cash, 1,000,000 shares of common stock of RLJ Entertainment and warrants to purchase 1,000,000 shares of common stock of RLJ Entertainment. After the completion of the business combination, the current stockholders of Image Entertainment and Acorn Media Group will own approximately 11% and 5% of RLJ Entertainment, respectively, assuming no redemptions. The current stockholders of the Company will own approximately 74% of RLJ Entertainment, assuming no redemptions.

The business combination is subject to approval of the Company’s and Image Entertainment’s respective stockholders, as well as regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions. Assuming these conditions are met, the business combination is expected to be completed by the end of the second quarter of this year.

This article is related to: DVD and VOD, DVDs, Television


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.