Stewart Till’s grand ambitions to establish an international distribution network have taken a big step forward with the news that the media arm of Len Blavatnik’s US-based industrial group Access Industries has finally closed its deal to buy the UK operations of Mel Gibson and Bruce Davey’s LA-based Icon Group.

The transaction comprises Icon’s international sales company, the distribution operation based in the UK, and the Majestic Films & Television library.

It does not include the Australian distribution company and cinemas, which is retained by The Icon Group, although Icon UK and Icon Australia will continue to acquire territory distribution rights together. LA-based Icon Productions has also entered into a first-look deal with Icon UK.

Access Industries chairman and New York-based industrialist Blavatnik backed Till’s company Stadium in September 2008 when it first announced plans to acquire Icon including both UK and Australian distribution operations, the sales company and the Majestic Films & Television library.

The UK business will continue to trade under the Icon name and Till will be appointed Icon UK’s new CEO responsible for managing and developing the organisation and will also be an equity holder in the business.

Till said the UK distributon company and the sales company were “the first two pieces in the jigsaw” in establishing an international distribution network along the lines of PolyGram Filmed Entertainment and PolyGram Film International.

“The plan is to set up an international distribution company that will have its own distribution ability aross a number of territories to complement what we already have in the UK,” Till said. “Over a period of time we’d like to expand the network to cover France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain and Eastern Europe and our sales company will sell in those territories where we don’t have distribution.”

Icon Distribution’s upcoming UK slate includes Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity, Richard Kelly’s sci-fi thriller The Box starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, Sam Taylor-Wood’s multiple British Independent Film Awards nominee Nowhere Boy, The Road starring Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron, action thriller Edge Of Darkness starring Gibson, Precious, and A Single Man.

“This acquisition is a fantastic first step in our plans to build an international distribution network that will be operational in all the key major territories around the world, including Eastern Europe and Asia,” Till said.

“We’re very pleased to have done a deal with Stewart and Access and to know that the Icon brand will be in such experienced hands,” Icon Group chairman Davey said. “We look forward to continuing a close relationship between the Icon UK and Australian businesses and keenly anticipate the company’s expansion plans into other territories.”

Access Industries is a privately held, US-based industrial group covering natural resources and chemicals, telecommunications and media, and real estate. Blavatnik founded the company in 1986.