Alliance Atlantis in flux

It's the end of an era for Alliance Atlantis Communications, once Canada's largest production company.

Alliance Atlantis Communications has been broken up following the close of its acquisition by CanWest Global Communications and Goldman Sachs for $2.3 billion. The broadcast portion of the deal still awaits CRTC approval, while the distribution element needs a green light from Heritage Canada.

The entire entertainment division, including the company’s lucrative 50% interest in the CSI franchise and its television library, is to be closed, as will its offices in Dublin, London, Sydney, Los Angeles and Toronto. Licensing for the company’s TV library of about 1,000 titles is to be outsourced.

‘(The AA library) has become the most profitable part of the company – responsible for the lion’s share of Alliance Atlantis’ revenue, mainly because of the success of CSI,’ says a former entertainment division employee. ‘I’m disappointed that we didn’t build on that success. But company officers – probably wisely – chose to sell at the highest possible point.’

Goldman Sachs now controls the entertainment division. The administration of the CSI assets was handed over to co-owner CBS around the time the $2.3-billion deal was announced in January. Goldman Sachs says it has no plans to sell CSI or the other library properties. ‘We like intellectual property and we like buying rights and developing them,’ says Gerry Cardinale, managing director of media and entertainment investing.

The broadcast division of 13 specialty channels is being held in trust pending the CRTC hearing scheduled for early September, but about a dozen staff have already been pink-slipped, according to CanWest spokesperson Deb Hutton. Approximately 70 staff members worldwide will be pink-slipped between now and January 2008.

Gone already are top-line executives including CFO Dave Lazzarato, executive VP and general counsel Andrea Wood and Ted Riley, executive managing director, international distribution. Executive chairman and cofounder Michael MacMillan and CEO Phyllis Yaffe are stepping down, but will remain as consultants to the company ‘for a period of time,’ according to a release.

Question marks remain about the futures of senior VP strategy Andrew Callum, marketing and public affairs honcho Heather Conway, executive VP content Norm Bolen and HR senior VP Jackie Saad, all of whom ‘are not leaving upon close,’ says Hutton.

Alliance cofounder Victor Loewy, who left MPD one year ago following a dispute with the board only to return as a consultant, is expected to be reinstalled in the executive suite. Rumor has it that the new management intends to bring in some new blood as well. Former Weinstein Company exec Charles Layton has been seen around MPD’s corporate offices, and observers expect that he may join the company in some capacity.

This story first appeared in Playback Daily.