Doc distributor Off the Fence is back in the hands of managing director Ellen Windemuth after an 18-month stint with RTV Family Entertainment. RTV effectively sold the Amsterdam, Netherlands-based company back to MD Windemuth in July as part of a restructuring in the wake of the collapse of the German giant Kirch Media.
Windemuth says the move is a relief, as the amount of extra bookkeeping that went with belonging to a publicly traded company was a burden. ‘None of it helped me get on with my core business, and I’m happy that my business is stripped of complications.’ As a result of her experience, Windemuth says she is not shopping around for a new buyer.
She sees her break-off with RTV as part of an overall industry trend, noting how Ron Devillier and Brian Donegan of Washington, U.S.-based distrib Devillier Donegan Enterprises purchased their company back from Disney/ABC this spring. Smaller, more focused operations are key to this market, Windemuth says. ‘The generalistic approach to distribution doesn’t seem to be a good idea. The distribution business seems to be a specialist business,’ she observes, ‘so let the people who know what they’re doing do it.’
Munich, Germany-based RTV, which invested heavily in Kirch, realized it had to unload Off the Fence after a key lender canceled a 5 million (US$4.97 million) line of credit in May. The cancelation was due to bad debts with foreign investors, as well as with the now defunct Kirch and copro partner Phenomedia. Citing ‘severe liquidity problems,’ RTV spokesman Torsten Weihrich says, ‘We didn’t have the money to finance [Off the Fence] anymore.’ The move frees RTV of its obligations to fund ongoing and future projects.
Atlantic Productions of London, U.K., a client prodco of Off the Fence, initially worried about how the company was going to make ends meet without an owner like RTV. But, as Atlantic Productions’ CEO Anthony Geffen observes, Windemuth and her team have landed on their feet. ‘My understanding now is that [Windemuth] is spinning onwards and upwards. I think the experience has taught her she wants to be linked with other people, but not owned by them.’