In April 2008, Yann Le Quellec was named managing director of Continental Entertainment Capital's (CEC) European operation based in Paris. A former banker with JP Morgan, Le Quellec is no stranger to the film industry, nor to CEC.
As head of EWB Finance, an affiliate of Wild Bunch, Le Quellec was instrumental in the 2007 deal that saw CEC, a Citi affiliate, invest in the French sales, distribution and finance outfit (EWB advised on the deal).
A self-confessed film fanatic, Le Quellec says that when he was working solely on the finance side - including having co-founded consulting and corporate finance services company NetsCapital in 1998 - he would "leave the office, change out of my suit and dress in all black" to head off like some kind of film beatnik. "It was a bit schizophrenic, really," he laughs.
Teaching himself about the complex financing side of the movie business, he began consulting for French companies such as Gaumont and Wild Bunch and eventually created EWB which helped structure Wild Bunch's first investment fund, Virtual Films, in 2005.
He also created Cinemage, a Sofica (a film fund offering investment opportunities to individuals and companies who can then access tax deductions). Cinemage has consistently doubled its investments on an annual basis, last year amounting to $7.5m (EUR4.8m). The endeavour has been a joy for Le Quellec, who gets to further indulge his love of film by reading the projects that are proposed, he notes.
Via his involvement with the Virtual deal, Le Quellec met the New York-based Ben Waisbren who is now president and CEO of CEC. Their paths crossed again when CEC put up its equity investment in Wild Bunch and created a $150m co-production and acquisition joint-venture with the company in September 2007.
In his role at CEC Europe, Le Quellec is now charged with providing structured financing solutions to European media companies with a focus on the film business but not excluding other forms of media including gaming, which he sees as a big growth market.
Essentially, Le Quellec explains, CEC Europe will look to invest in companies that need cash, and also work as an adviser to companies that do not necessarily need financing but which require a strategy to help turn them around. Investments may also come on a film-by-film basis.
In a climate where production costs are relatively stable but distribution costs are going up, Le Quellec says: "People still need product because the means of consumption is strongly increasing. Producers and distributors have understood they need money to finance their efforts differently."
Although Le Quellec says he has been solicited constantly for meetings, the European market is "a fragile equilibrium. We can't bring an excess of liquidity because that creates inflation. A big group like Citi isn't too risk-exposed but it can also create dysfunction in the system, so you have to be careful."
When pressed, Le Quellec allows CEC Europe's investments cannot be too small, either: "It has to be a couple of million." Since CEC was created in the US in April 2007, it has invested $400m, he says.
The aim, Le Quellec continues, is primarily to identify good management teams with vision and operational means and to understand the problems and needs of distributors and find the models that best suit them.
He adds, "The bet for financiers is, 'We have money but is it worth it''"