Leading UK producer Jeremy Thomas is returning to UK distribution some 15 years after launching Recorded Releasing with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell.

Thomas is close to taking a stake of around 20% in Optimum Releasing, the independent UK distributor which has been steadily building a reputation with canny specialist releases such as Mexican hit Amores Perros and Terry Gilliam documentary Lost In La Mancha.

Optimum managing director Will Clarke, who launched the company three years ago with seed capital from former investment banker Paul Higgins, has been aiming to raise a total of some $3m to push the distributor to the next level. The company, which has also scored successes with Lawless Heart, The Devil's Backbone and the re-release of The Third Man, began touting a sounding document around media and finance contacts last summer.

Thomas' last foray into UK distribution ended with losses forcing him to sell his exhibition interests. Recorded Releasing, which handled titles including Wings Of Desire, Ginger & Fred and The Big Easy, was eventually folded into the Blackwell empire.

But Thomas has been looking to grow his company after securing an undisclosed but substantial out-of-court settlement with tax-based financier Grosvenor Park, which he helped launch in the UK. And although Thomas is still expected to continue using other distributors as well, Clarke is seen as a good fit, both for his independent taste and the fact that Optimum has lost money on only one film to date, Born Romantic.

Thomas heads one of the most prolific UK production houses, Recorded Picture Company, which last year shot Young Adam, starring Ewan McGregor, and Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers. Another stream of product comes through Thomas' sales operation, HanWay, which regularly boards third-party films such as To Kill A King.