The Canadian mining magnate and movie mogul who founded Lionsgate is back in show business. Legendary financier and philanthropist Frank Giustra has made a “significant investment” in Vancouver-based Thunderbird Films, meant to propel the company toward a major expansion.
“Frank’s a really influential guy and having him [at Thunderbird]is a huge advantage,” Thunderbird co-founder and president Michael Shepard told The Globe and Mail on Wednesday. “It’s not just the money, but it’s also the relationships he brings to the table. His track record is so strong in this field.”
Shepard would not disclose the amount of the investment Giustra has made in Thunderbird, but said it was “significant” and that Giustra becomes a major shareholder.
Thunderbird co-founder Tim Gamble has a relationship with Giustra that goes back to the 1980s, when they co-executive produced the film Cadence. Shot in British Columbia and released in 1990, the film starred Martin Sheen and Charlie Sheen (Martin Sheen also directed). “It was a great movie and they worked well together and maintained a close friendship since then,” says Shepard. “There’s a lot of stories about that movie.”
Thunderbird owns a 50-per-cent stake in the Blade Runner film franchise and will be an active partner in the new Blade Runner feature film. It also produces the procedural TV drama series Endgame, and the youth-targeted live-action comedy series Mr. Young, which was picked up last year by Disney XD channels in the United States and around the world.
“The television business is a thriving business worldwide right now; it’s a really good place to be,” said Shepard. “It’s really the opposite of what happened with the music industry. It’s been a real boon for us.”
Thunderbird is now promising a change in both name and direction, with plans to diversify and expand its television operations, using the additional funds provided by Giustra’s investment.
“Thunderbird will now have access to sufficient capital to focus on becoming a prominent entity in the production and distribution of television programming with a special emphasis on rights management,” said Giustra, in a statement released Wednesday. “I look forward to moving the company to its next level of success, leveraging its independence to capitalize on global opportunities.”
Giustra, 54, is known as the guy with the Midas touch; a jet-setter who is a major player in the world of finance – and philanthropy – yet prefers to fly under the radar, for the most part, at least in terms of media exposure.
He founded Lionsgate in 1997 and served as its chairman from 1997 until 2003, returning to its board of directors in 2010. Giustra is currently president and CEO of Fiore Financial Corporation, described as exclusive adviser to Endeavour Mining Corporation, and chair and president of Fiore Capital Corporation, a private financial advisory firm.
He also hobnobs (and raises money with) former U.S. president Bill Clinton; their Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative (CGSGI) was established in 2007, seeking to “narrow the wealth gap in the developing world by empowering the poor through effective, results-oriented economic and social development projects.” Last month, Giustra and Clinton attended a graduation ceremony for more than 900 graduates of two CGSGI job-training programs in Bogota, Colombia.
More announcements are expected from Thunderbird in the coming weeks about its new direction – and new projects. “There’s a bunch of stuff cooking,” said Shepard.