Jerome Booth of New Sparta buys Icon UK Distribution; Ian Dawson CEO; Norman Humphrey and Zak Brilliant among execs.

Icon Film Distribution (IFD) is to relaunch in the UK after being acquired by Jerome Booth’s investment group, New Sparta. The deal, for an undisclosed sum, also includes Icon Home Entertainment UK.

Icon ceased distribution in the UK in late 2011 as the company shifted its focus to production. Over the past year, there has been speculation that IFD may relaunch and rumours circulated about who would back it.

New Sparta’s acquisition follows the emergence of a gap in the market, following a shake-up in the UK distribution landscape in recent years.

Running IFD as CEO will be long-standing Icon exec Ian Dawson, who has been with the firm since 2006.

Norman Humphrey, formerly CEO of The Works Media Group, will join the firm as executive chairman and COO. Zak Brilliant, who has worked at Icon since 2002, has been named head of theatrical.

The top-level team will also include head of home entertainment Ray Primett and operations manager Sarah Brady. More staff will be hired in the coming months.

Upcoming releases

The deal includes upcoming horror Demonic starring Maria Bello and titles released though IFD’s output deal with Lionsgate, such as 2014 feature Postman Pat: The Movie featuring the voices of Stephen Mangan, David Tennant and Rupert Grint.

The deal also comprises Icon’s UK library, which includes Drive, Paranormal Activity and A Single Man amongst others.

IFD will return to acquiring films for all media. As part of the new agreement, IFD will have access to future funding through New Sparta for the acquisition of film distribution rights and P+A finance.

New Sparta

Jerome Booth, an economist who retired from asset management company Ashmore Group earlier this year, has spent the past six months building a group of film and media companies, including film finance and production company New Sparta Films. It recently invested in The Silent Storm, starring Damian Lewis and Andrea Riseborough.

Booth said he wanted to build IFD into “the UK’s premier distribution company of choice for high quality and commercially successful film production companies”.

New CEO Dawson said Booth was “demonstrating a real commitment to the UK film industry” and was the ideal partner to deliver its “exciting plans”.

“We will re-establish Icon Film Distribution as a truly independent UK film company with a talented, passionate team working closely with film makers to bring quality, distinctive material to UK audiences,” added Dawson.

Booth will join Dawson and Humphrey on the board of Icon Film Distribution.

The deal was negotiated by Booth, Nicki Hattingh, David Baxter and Chris Raeder of New Sparta with Icon UK Group CEO Aviv Giladi, Estelle Overs and Osman Mustafa.


Icon UK Group will continue to co-finance and co-produce international features through production arm AI Film, run by Len Blavatnik. Its first project, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, topped the US box office for three weeks and has grossed more than $100m to date.

AI Film recently announced new Sherlock Holmes feature A Slight Trick of the Mind at the Toronto International Film Festival to be directed by Oscar winner Bill Condon and starring Ian McKellen in the lead role.

AI is also backing Martin Scorsese’s Silence, which is set to shoot next year, and Rocketman, chronicling the story of pop icon Elton John.

Icon UK Group CEO Giladi said the company would “continue to focus on our growing film finance and production slate”.

On the transaction, New Sparta was represented by Harbottle and Lewis; Icon UK Group was represented by Olswang; and Dawson and Humphrey were represented by Lee & Thompson.