The bid is significantly higher than a previously announced offer Searchlight Capital Partners made (which most thought would go unchallenged) to buy Digital Domain’s production studios for $15 million: A JV led by Chinese film and TV company Galloping Horse has submitted a winning bid to acquire one of Hollywood’s leading visual effects studios. Galloping Horse America, a division of the Beijing-based media company, has partnered with Reliance MediaWorks, the post-production company that is part of the Indian conglomerate Reliance ADA, to buy Digital Domain’s visual effects studios in Venice, CA (the HQ) and Vancouver, Canada, for $30.2 million, reported The LA Times.
The bid potentially marks the latest acquisition of a U.S. media company by a Chinese firm. China’s Dalian Wanda Group recently purchased AMC Entertainment, the nation’s second-largest theater chain.
“This is a great day for Digital Domain,” said Digital Domain Chief Executive Ed Ulbrich. “Our new partners have incredible strength and reach in the global entertainment marketplace. They are powerful strategic partners that understand our business and our clients’ business. Their support enables us to continue creating the highest quality entertainment and advertising and puts us in the strongest financial position that Digital Domain has ever been in.”
Said Ivy Zhong, vice chairman and managing director of Beijing Galloping Horse Film: “Digital Domain is a legend in the industry, known for its world-class quality of work and creative talent. We are thrilled to have found a partner in Reliance MediaWorks that is as committed as we are to ensuring Digital Domain’s continued excellence and success.”
Beijing Galloping Horse and Reliance MediaWorks have a combined value of more than $25 billion.
Employees at Digital Domain’s HQ and its branches in Vancouver, Canada and the San Francisco Bay Area will retain current salary and benefits. In the Ch. 11 filing, the company announced the closing of facilities in Port St. Lucie, FL where about 300 employees would be let go.
Digital Domain has worked on more than 90 major motion pictures, also including “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” “Transformers,” Star Trek” and “X-Men: First Class”.
Digital Domain specializes in creating realistic computer-generated human characters, said in June it planned to produce virtual Elvis Presley likenesses across various platforms, including live shows, TV and online.
Digital Domain raised $42 million in an IPO in November, 2011 but said last month that it was looking at strategic alternatives and had hired Wells Fargo Securities LLC as financial adviser.