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January 2011 – Leopard and Keo in talks over merger

2 December, 2010 | By Lisa Campbell, Alex Farber

Leopard Television is in discussions with Keo Films and a third party about a merger that could create a ‘mini super-indie’.

It is understood that the potential deal has also attracted investor interest, although talks are at an early stage.
If the deal goes ahead, the merged operation would be controlled by all the parties involved, rather than one individual company or a private investor.

The identity of the third company is not known, but it is believed to be a multiplatform, youth-oriented business.

Factual entertainment specialist Leopard, which has a turnover of £12m, is understood to be keen to broaden its operation. It recently moved into kids’ programming with a CBBC commission and is keen on a tie-up with a digital specialist.

Leopard chief exec James Burstall said: “Like all companies in the sector, Leopard Films is committed to maintaining open dialogues with a range of companies and organisations on an ongoing basis.”
Keo managing director Zam Baring added: “We are in various conversations with different parties, and none has more weight than any other.”

About Corporate Finance is working on the potential merger. Chief executive Thomas Dey said:
“We have spoken to a number of parties and are looking for a method of building a super-indie that doesn’t use the traditional model. This is a genuine desire to grow through collaboration rather than selling and maximising money for each individual.”
The idea is that the model provides greater protection in a difficult commissioning climate by avoiding the tough targets imposed by an owner/funder. It would also allow the indies to retain control of the operation as the investor would have only a minority interest.

Leopard’s output ranges from daytime brands such as Cash In The Attic to BBC1 peaktime documentary The Day The Immigrants Left and ITV1 drama Englishman In New York.
Keo Films, which turned over £4.6m in 2009, produces a range of factual documentaries and formats, including long-running Channel 4 series River Cottage and acclaimed BBC1 doc Welcome To Lagos.