Article in Broadcast Magazine, 23rd August 2012:

Sony Pictures Television (SPT) plans to turn Left Bank Pictures into a global scripted powerhouse after sealing a £40m takeover of the Strike Back indie.

SPT has taken a majority stake in Left Bank for a double-digit multiple of the company’s £4m EBITDA forecast for 2012.

Left Bank chief executive Andy Harries said it would enable the company to accelerate its international production strategy, which last year saw it seal a major US co-production to make SAS drama Strike Back for Sky 1 and HBO.

“The expansion of the world TV market is intoxicating,” he said. “The ability to make big-budget shows is there if you work hard.”

The former ITV Studios drama boss and his business partner Marigo Kehoe will travel to the US in September to discuss opportunities with SPT’s local drama producers and key creatives such as The Shield showrunner Shawn Ryan. SPT’s dramas include Breaking Bad and Damages.

Andrea Wong, SPT’s president of international production, said doors will also be opened to Left Bank in Russia and the Middle East.

She added that the takeover was “not the final piece in the jigsaw” and the company will continue to add to its other UK production assets: Gogglebox, Victory Television and Silver River.

The Left Bank deal, is SPT’s biggest in the UK so far.

Under the agreement, brokered by About Corporate Finance, SPT will distribute all of the indie’s new content and formats, and will be first in line to sell the indie’s future feature films.

BBC Worldwide will continue to represent Left Bank’s back catalogue of content – including Mad Dogs and DCI Banks – and will retain around half the 25% stake it took in the company when it was first established in 2007.

Based on BBCW halving its stake, it understood that Left Bank directors Harries and Kehoe, and finance director Grace Wilson, have done the same, meaning SPT is likely to have bought a controlling 51% stake in the company.

The Left Bank execs are in line for a substantial initial windfall followed by a traditional earn-out, but made clear that they remain committed for the long term. “This is a growth strategy for us, not an exit strategy,” Kehoe said.

The seeds of the takeover were planted when Harries first met Wong 10 years ago. He described the potential for their partnership as “huge”.

“We launched the company in the middle of a recession, so it’s fitting that we’re doing this deal in a double-dip recession,” he added.

Left Bank won the Indie of the Year accolade at the 2011 Broadcast Awards. Its other productions include E4’s Cardinal Burns, BBC1’s Wallander and Victoria Wood’s forthcoming BBC1 drama Loving Miss Hatto.