Reliance Entertainment CEO Shibasish Sarkar Launches Buyout Company

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Shibasish Sarkar, current CEO of Reliance Entertainment, is spearheading the launch of the first special purpose acquisition company targeting the Indian media industry.

Sarkar is set as chairman, CEO and leading shareholder of International Media Acquisition Corp., a New Jersey-registered company . It aims to raise $200 million-$230 million through an IPO on the NASDAQ exchange within the next 12-18 months.

In recent months SPACs, often described as ‘blank check companies’ have become wildly popular vehicles for raising speculative finance and allowing privately-owned companies and start-ups to obtain share listings. Without a track record of their own, and without meaningful business operations, SPACs rely on the financial muscle of their bankers and the reputations of their founders to pull off their first moves.

IMAC’s board of directors also includes: Sanjay Wadhwa, managing partner of AP International Group, one of the biggest Tamil-language IP owners; former WME agent David Taghioff, who now heads international film funder Library Pictures; and Greg Silverman, current head of Stampede Ventures, and former president of creative development and worldwide production at Warner Bros. Pictures with credits including “The Hangover,” “The Dark Knight,” “Gravity,” “Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice,” and “Suicide Squad.” Others are former Disney India executive Vishwas Joshi, who is set as IMAC’s finance director, noted U.S. businessman Paul Pelosi Jr. and Suresh Ramamurthi, chairman of CBW Bank.

As is typical of SPACs at pre-listing stage, IMAC is vague as to its growth path. The vehicle says it plans to make acquisitions in the next year or so with target companies in North America, Europe and Asia. These should have enterprise valuations between $150 million and $500 million, operate in the media and entertainment and adjacent industries, and cost IMAC a minimum of $160 million to buy.

A preliminary prospectus filed with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission includes a section containing information specific to the Indian entertainment industry – which it describes as a mobile digital first economy, as well as the market that sells the most cinema tickets in the world – pointing to the company having a strong Indian focus.

A move that sees IMAC buy out Reliance Entertainment would be a logical conclusion of Sarkar being allowed to create a SPAC while still gainfully employed. His regular producing partner, Los Angeles-based Kintop Pictures-owner Deepak Nayar (“Buena Vista Social Club,” “Bend It Like Beckham,” “Bride and Prejudice”) is also named as an IMAC board member.

That might allow troubled billionaire Anil Ambani (younger brother and frequent business rival of Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani) to finally be shot of an operation that has yielded a handful of highlights and plenty of pain.

Born from the remnants of the former Adlabs cinemas, distribution and post-production empire, Reliance Entertainment is owned by Reliance – Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (R-ADA), which became financially stricken after stretching too far across infrastructure and telecoms.

Reliance Entertainment today sprawls across games, movies, animation and a small VoD service (BigFlix has 3.9 million subscribers according to the company website). It also has stakes in Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners, the now defunct Global Road Entertainment, Indian film production companies Phantom and Rohit Shetty Picturez, and TV producer Big Synergy Media.

RE’s recent highlights include its participation in “The Girl on the Train,” “1917,” and “The Trial of the Chicago Seven.” Its big-budget “Sooryavanshi,” starring Akshay Kumar, is awaiting release.