Australian regional broadcaster, Prime Television, has taken control of the Becker Group, which includes Dendy Cinemas, Dendy Distribution, and sales agent Becker International, as well as significant television production and outside broadcast interests.

Prime acquired the 42.6% of the company owned by father-and-son directors Russell and Richard Becker late last week for 47 cents per share. Prime is controlled by Paul Ramsay, and Ramsay and Prime already had a stake in the pubic company amounting to about 24%.

It is understood that discussions with Prime over the ownership of the Becker Group started at least 12 months ago.

At the time a formal off market takeover bid was made by Prime this year, an asset sale deed was also entered into that would have resulted in the Becker family carving off and buying the cinema assets of the company for A$15.5 million.

Some shareholders did not consider this plan to be acceptable, particularly given the price being offered for the film component.

One of those shareholders, Dolphete, a company part-owned by Mel Gibson, succeeded in convincing Australia's dispute resolution authority, the Takeovers Panel, to examine the transaction.

The panel handed down its decision last Wednesday and found that there were several unacceptable circumstances surrounding the bid. By the end of the week Russell and Richard Becker had bowed out.

Dendy Cinemas is one of Australia 's two specialist arthouse chains and Dendy Distribution, run by Andrew Mackie and Richard Payten, is one of the top arthouse distributors in the country. Dendy Distribition's next releases are Snowcake (August 2) and the two Australian films Lucky Miles (July 19) and The Homesong Stories (August 12).

Among the films being represented internationally by Becker are Control, the biopic about Ian Curtis, the lead singer of English post punk band Joy Division, and Mary & Max, the first animated feature from the Academy Award winner Adam Elliot.

Russell Becker founded the company in 1965, Richard Becker joined in 1977, and it was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 1996.

The events of the last few days value the Becker Group at about A$30 million. The Reading cinema chain also has a small shareholding in Beckers.