CSQ magazine’s Sports and Entertainment edition has once again created fantastic content and provided insights from a number of dynamic leaders in what is arguably the most creative and challenging of industries. Given that we live in Los Angeles, the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” and I now work for Merrill Lynch, it is not surprising that financing and advising the entertainment industry is a big business for my new colleagues.
Bank of America has a long, rich history of banking the entertainment industry which has made the research for this quarterly article particularly interesting. Its film finance division was originally launched in 1923 to bank entertainment luminaries like Charlie Chaplin. Over the years, the bank has financed hundreds of classic films including Gone With the Wind, West Side Story, and It’s a Wonderful Life. During a recent client visit, celebrity lawyer Bruce Ramer asked, “Do you know anything about Bank of America’s founder Amadeo Peter (A.P.) Giannini?” Slightly embarrassed, I confessed that I really did not know much about Mr. Giannini other than he founded the Bank of Italy, which acquired Bank of America in 1928. Mr. Ramer proceeded to share a story he originally heard from his founding partner Martin Gang about an upstart filmmaker named Walt Disney. As Mr. Ramer recalls, in the midst of the Great Depression, Disney bet everything to produce the first feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Production began in 1934 and continued until Disney ran out of money. Nearly broke, Disney was turned down by a number of banks until 1937, when he brought a rough cut of his reel to Mr. Giannini, who recognized potential for success and loaned him the $1.5mm needed to complete the film. As the story goes, Snow White was a commercial success, grossing $8mm in 1938 (approximately $134mm in today’s dollars), and paving the way for the Golden Age of Animation, which helped Los Angeles cement its place as the “Entertainment Capital.”
Today, Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s (BofAML) Entertainment Industries Group (EIG) is led by veteran banker Daniel Timmons, who in the same fashion as his predecessors, continues to work with many of the most successful people in the business today, helping them to finance everything from single projects to full slates. Mr. Timmons is supported by a deep team of professionals with a focus on providing financing to a wide variety of the upper-tier studios, independent producers, distributors, sales agents, and co-financiers.
“We are honored to carry on the deep legacy Bank of America has in the business by working across the capital structure with today’s most respected entertainment companies,” said Mr.Timmons.
The EIG team is unique in that in addition to commercial banking services, they also provide access to advisory services through BofAML’s investment banking group led by Vice Chairman Cary Thompson. Mr. Thompson coordinates with senior bankers like Brian Stearns, who help entertainment and media clients raise capital and address strategic M&A needs. EIG specializes in structuring and syndicating multi-year slate or corporate debt facilities that “stretch” fully funded equity capital. They finance on-and-off balance sheet receivables, released and unreleased inventory and all types of IP including film, television, music, and interactive gaming properties.
Bank of America Los Angeles Area President Raul Anaya, who is also a commercial banker, shared, “Our integrated coverage model – blending our corporate banking, investment banking and wealth management platforms – allows us to serve all aspects of our clients’ needs and has helped us capture significant market share in the entertainment industry.”
Through EIG, they provide access to complete structuring and advisory capabilities for approximately 35 leading entertainment companies with transaction sizes generally ranging from $20mm to $1B.
Now that I’m settling in at Merrill Lynch’s Private Banking & Investment Group, I’ll continue to share my experiences with CSQ readers in upcoming issues. If you have any questions in the meantime, please feel free to reach out to me directly.
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