Would-be mogul bites the dust

He's Henry Winterstern and his resignation last week as CEO of First Look Pictures, an upstart independent, is another example of way too much hedge fund money being spent in the wrong places by the wrong people. Specifically, hiring a staff of 140 and moving to the plush new Century City headquarters building of Creative Artists Agency at a cost of $4 million. I mean, come on!!! And, not surprisingly, New Look's portfolio was underwhelming: Something called "The Dead Girl" took in $19,000 (the AMC in Century City probably does better than that in a day) and "Wassup Rockers," which generated $620,000. As Sharon Waxman explains in the NYT, neophyte Winterstern came to town only two years ago with big ideas (he wanted First Look to be the next Lionsgate) and lots of hedge fund money from Prentice Capital Management. Sources told Waxman that the company lost $50 million last year. Winterstern says it wasn't that much. OK, so let's call it $49 million. Some details:

The 49-year-old Mr. Winterstern, who has the craggy looks and hunched-over affect of a street fighter, never claimed to have much movie experience. But convinced that distribution was the place to make money, he planned to build a studio using his talents at raising money and strategic thinking that were successful in his turnaround of the Wet Seal, a maker of clothing for teenagers, in collaboration with Prentice Capital earlier this decade. Prentice Capital invested $70 million with Mr. Winterstern to build the studio, in tandem with a credit line of $80 million from Merrill Lynch. Mr. Winterstern merged First Look Pictures, an indie distributor, with his own Capital Entertainment Group in 2005. (He remains its largest individual shareholder.) He gave the rechristened First Look Studios a rousing mission statement, saying in part: “First Look is a maverick. We are primarily accountable to ourselves. We want an audience looking at films from First Look to know — as Howard Hawks once said — just who made the picture.”

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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