Now (officially) for sale: Alliance Atlantis dumps MPD

Alliance Atlantis sells off Motion Picture Distribution – just like Victor Loewy said it should.

In a corporate reversal of the old saw, “You can't fire me, I quit,” Toronto-based media company Alliance Atlantis Communications (AAC) is seeking a buyer for its releasing arm, Motion Picture Distribution (MPD)–a few months after firing two MPD executives for arranging to have it bought.

The Oct. 20 announcement came 21 days after MPD patched up its differences with former chairman Victor Loewy. Loewy quit the company in July over allegations he and two senior MPD executives were plotting a management buyout of the distributor (code-named Godfather). When Loewy left the building, he took a measure of MPD's revenue security with him.

MPD's pre-eminence in the Canadian distribution business is based on long-running output deals with such U.S. distributors as New Line Cinema, the keepers of The Lord Of The Rings franchise. New Line's output deal with MPD had a key-man clause; that key man is Victor Loewy. If Loewy leaves MPD, New Line can void the output deal. On Sept. 29, New Line extended its output deal with MPD. Victor Loewy went back to work.

Now, having completed its much-ballyhooed strategic review, Alliance Atlantis, says CEO Phyllis Yaffe, “has concluded it is not necessary for AACI to own an interest in MPD in order for us to benefit from MPD's content and create value for our core broadcasting business.”

So begins a new round of speculation: one company, London-based Marwyn Investment Management, already made an offer of about $400 million in August.

It seems by waiting till Loewy was back on board, Alliance Atlantis wanted to be seen to be the master of its own destiny. But Loewy, who returned to MPD with the title chairman emeritus, looks every bit the victor.