A24 could easily find a buyer in a wave of acquisitions. But if the distributor looked to international growth under his first CFO, he could get a higher price later or stay independent.
With mergers and acquisitions rocking Hollywood, all eyes are on A24 – it was recently rumored to target a sale for up to $ 3 billion. Would the nine-year-old indie flavor maker behind Oscar winners like “Moonlight” and hit series like “Euphoria” benefit from the fervor that led to rich deals for Hello Sunshine and MGM? The answer, at least for now, is no.
IndieWire has confirmed that A24 has hired its first CFO, JB Lockhart, who has served as the NBA’s CFO for the past four years. His task is clear: lead the company’s further global expansion. And with previous experience in the venture capital space and at Disney working to identify merger and acquisition targets, industry sources say it can be done by companies themselves.
“To me, that means they are serious about raising capital and considering M&A,” said one executive.
While A24 has made a name for itself as the North American distributor of author projects such as “The Bling Ring”, “The Witch” and “The Lobster”, production has accounted for up to 80 percent of the business in recent years. This year alone, this includes 17 features and 14 series worldwide. The company prefers to own the world and sell international rights for its own productions.
While theatrical releases like “Hereditary” have helped the company’s brand awareness soar to enviable levels, in the age of streaming it remains nimble for a variety of sales plans: it sold the horror film “False Positive” starring Ilana Glazer to Hulu late last Year. And it sold the North American and Latin American rights to its Val Kilmer portrait “Val” to Amazon earlier this year, but kept “Green Knight” and “Zola” for domestic theatrical release that summer. “Zola” went on PVOD three weeks after it opened in theaters.
The company’s broad range of partnerships is evident in its growing TV production roster, which includes Hulu’s “Ramy” and HBO’s Emmy-winning “Euphoria”. It also has a film distribution agreement with Showtime while some of its most popular films such as “Uncut Gems” and “The Florida Project” are streamed on Netflix. In 2018, it signed a multi-year deal with Apple to produce films for Apple TV +.
Though hailing from a different industry, Lockhart is well positioned to address A24’s global ambitions. At the NBA, he helped oversee the league’s international expansion, including the launch of the Basketball Africa League in 2019. CNBC recently reported that he had been tasked with soliciting private equity investors for the NBA. When A24 wanted to expand its international presence in 2016, it hired former Goldman Sachs and media investment manager Sasha Lloyd.
“They don’t limit their search to specific applied experiences,” says Cinetic Media’s John Sloss, who worked with A24. “I think they were pretty disciplined looking for the brightest and best executives.”
One part of Lockhart’s résumé stands out: Before joining the NBA and venture capital, he worked for the Strategic Planning Group at Walt Disney Company, where he focused on business development and M&A initiatives.
“My bet is that they’ll either look for a sale or go on an acquisition spree. I don’t think this is for the public markets, ”said Eric Schiffer, chairman and CEO of the private equity firm Patriarch Organization. “You have to have someone who speaks the local language and makes a credible and salable deal.”
Schiffer noted that it’s not uncommon for entertainment companies to forego CFOs, but that they often hire people for the job when they have around 100 employees (A24 has over 125).
A senior agent put A24’s growth ambitions as follows: “It’s a brand extension, no different from what other companies do: investing in other companies that appear larger than their core business.”
Last month, A24 was rumored to be offering a sale valued at between $ 2.5 billion and $ 3 billion, a number that has been received with skepticism by many in the industry. It followed Amazon’s plan to pay $ 8.45 billion for MGM and recently a deal by former Disney executives to start a streaming arms dealer with Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine as its first acquisition. That deal valued the company, who made The Morning Show, at $ 900 million, a number that is large because of the way technology companies value assets.
And last month, Universal and Peacock made a deal to pay over $ 400 million for a new “Exorcist” trilogy. The deal for the hot IP was reminiscent of Netflix’s deal earlier this year for two sequels to Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” at a similar price.
Anne Thompson contributed to the coverage.