There's a Hollywood mogul who is fond of saying that sooner or later all rumors are true. The question in the case of Ryan Kavanaugh: Is this that time?
With his capital in a choke hold, executives leaving or on the brink and the prospect of new financing uncertain, it seems this time that Kavanaugh may really need a miracle for his independent studio.
The news on Thursday -- which turned out to be old -- that Relativity's new COO Brian Edwards had left in October came on the heels of TheWrap reporting that another top executive, Steve Bertram, was thinking of leaving the studio after only a year in the job of president and CFO.
I haven't made a decision about what I'm going to do, he told TheWrap on Wednesday night. It's as likely I'm staying as not. Ryan and I are in the middle of conversations. There isn't a decision. I wanted to take some time to figure things out.
That comes on the heels of the exit of the previous president Michael Joe, who quickly disappeared after he was swallowed up by Elliott Associates, Kavanaugh's hedge-fund backer.
Kavanaugh's demise is predicted regularly by his friends, enemies, competitors, peers, colleagues and general industry gossips. At any given moment, it seems entirely imminent: he's out of money, he's in a corner, his movies have tanked, his studio is going under….. on and on.
But every time up to now in his latest incarnation, Kavanaugh has had the last laugh. He's continually pulled more financial backing together -- like this latest loan from Colbeck Capital and Ron Burkle -- clinched a dubious movie opening or announced some unexpected deal in China.
He's the consummate jujitsu mogul, ducking and blocking when his back is up against the wall.
But now he's really up against the wall. His relationship with Elliott Associates has deteriorated, and the hedge fund no longer wants to bankroll Relativity's ambitious slate for 2012. The word on Wall Street and in Hollywood is that Kavanaugh's plan to have JP Morgan lead a consortium of investors to buy out Elliott's stake has stagnated and looks less likely every day.
One unplayed card may be Colbeck Capital. They loaned him $50 million for the prints and advertising for Immortals, another $50 for Mirror, Mirror, and are good for another $100 million, according to knowledgeable individuals.
Perhaps Kavanaugh can get Colbeck to buy out Elliott.
And all is not amiss at the independent studio. Immortals, the studio's biggest bet yet with a production cost near $100 million, is going to end up taking in about $200 million at the worldwide box office. (Relativity will get box-office bonuses for the big international take, even having presold foreign rights.)
Limitless starring Brad Cooper took in $161.8 million, worldwide, and was a profit-maker. But there have been plenty of flops, too.
Still, the mini-major, which began distributing only this year, will end the year behind only Summit in the indie domestic box-office steeplechase, taking in about $240 million.
As for Kavanaugh himself, the puckish financial whiz is laid up in his Malibu house, after suffering a motorcycle accident this past weekend.
The question really is, will the turmoil in the executive suites scare off financial partners just as Kavanaugh so desperately needs them to believe in the company's future?