Factual advocacy group calls on Kew to clarify its situation

The Fairness in Factual TV Campaign, led by CWA Canada and IATSE, has asked for assurances Kew will "deal fairly" with individuals it represents across the unscripted sector.
February 5, 2020

Fairness in Factual TV Campaign, a group that advocates on behalf of individuals working in Canada’s factual space, has asked for clarity on the issues surrounding Kew Media Group after it was permanently delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange last week.

The organization has asked Kew to provide assurances it will “deal fairly” with the showrunners, writers, editors and other crew members it represents, as the Toronto-headquartered company continues to undertake a strategic review process.

While Kew has not publicly commented on the status of the review, the media group has already sold a number of its subsidiaries, including LA-based prodco Collins Avenue Entertainment. As well, Kew has sold its equity stake in Scotland-based prodco Two Rivers Media and is looking to sell other other production and distribution assets within its portfolio.

Last week, Kew was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange after the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) issued a permanent cease trade order. That order came two weeks after the OSC told Kew to temporarily cease trading after Kew had said multiple financial reports, including its year-end fiscal filings for 2016 and 2017, “should no longer be relied upon.” Former CFO Geoff Webb, according to Kew, provided information which “contained inaccurate information regarding working capital.” The company’s stock price was 64 cents when it halted trading on Jan. 16.

Kew’s stable of Canadian production companies includes Bristow Global Media, Frantic Films, Architect Films and Our House Media. Internationally its assets include London-based TCB Media Rights and LA-and London-based distribution Kew Media Distribution.

For some, change has already begun. Fire Masters prodco Architect Films, which is led by Mike Sheerin and Tanya Linton, will see its staff make a “seamless transition” to a new company called Nikki Ray Media Agency, which will continue to be involved in the unscripted space.

Meanwhile, reports suggest UK distributor TCB Media Rights, which Kew acquired in October 2017, is close to being sold to a third party.

Other Canadian companies in the group are continuing to explore options including buying themselves back, or being acquired by another media group. Playback, Realscreen‘s sister publication, has learned a number of media groups are kicking the tires of Canadian prodcos under the Kew umbrella – all of which have individually been consistently strong performers within the domestic industry for years, and in some cases decades.

In its statement, Fairness in Factual said it is “seeking further information from Kew’s co-owners Peter Sussman and Steven Silver and their investor relations firm about whether any of the companies are being considered for dissolution, what notice will be provided to employees and contractors and what happens in case of company spin-offs, dissolution or bankruptcy.” Fairness in Factual, formed six years ago, is led by CWA Canada (which is a parent organization to the Canada Media Guild) and IATSE.

Kew’s financial issues first became apparent in mid-November, when the company reported Q3 revenues of $47.5 million, down 5.3% from $52.8 million the year prior. Three weeks later it announced a strategic review of its entire business and put a multitude of strategic alternatives on the table, including the sale of all or parts of the company, or a merger with another company. A special committee chaired by Kew board member David Fleck was appointed to oversee the review. Fellow Kew board members Patrice Merrin and Maish Kagan are also part of the committee, in addition to its financial advisor TD Securities.

 From Playback Daily. Image: Shutterstock

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