Michael Eisner Returns to Movies With Universal Deal

The Hollywood Reporter
Michael Eisner Returns to Movies With Universal Deal

Michael Eisner’s Tornante Company has sealed a multi-year worldwide distribution deal with Universal Pictures for feature films, the company announced Tuesday.

This marks an expansion of the activities by Tornante, a privately held company founded in 2005, which until now had focused on investments and acquisitions in media and entertainment companies in the digital and online world.

Eisner, the former CEO of the Walt Disney Company, is partnered in Tornante with Dearborn Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm. In 2007, they acquired The Topps Company, which for 50 years has created and marketed sports trading cards and other entertainment products.

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Eisner was the top executive at Disney for 21 years until he departed in 2005.

The announcement does not specify how many years the deal will run or what movies Universal will be distributing. One project associated with Eisner -- which may now go through Universal -- is an animated movie based on the Garbage Pail Kids.

Garbage Pail Kids was created by cartoonist Art Spiegelman, and first took life as a series of trading cards featuring images of Cabbage Patch Kids on otherwise disfigured children. The cards were popular in the mid-1980s.

A film based on the characters was released in 1987 in association with Topps, and was not successful. Released by the now-defunct Atlantic Entertainment Group, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie grossed only about $1.5 million and was nominated for three Razzie Awards.

CNBC reported in May that Eisner was working with JP Morgan to raise $800 million for a new film and TV production company. He was said to be seeking $400 million in equity and another $400 million in debt financing to make four or five movies a year and to produce two or three scripted TV series. According to CNBC, Eisner planned to personally invest $20 million in the company.

Tornante’s other properties include: an animation company; new media studio Vuguru; and digital businesses such as Activate, WhoWhatWear, Task Rabbit, Zumox and AirTime.

Vuguru develops and finances story-driven content for digital and international platforms. Its projects have included The Booth at the End for Hulu and Little Women BIG CARS for AOL. It has licensing and distribution deals with AOL and Yahoo as well as an output deal for international distribution through FreemantleMedia Enterprises.