When Mookie Greidinger was convicted this summer, he was devastated. He told the Israeli court that this was something he never expected.
But the life of a movie mogul did not become easier from this.
Two months later, Greidinger’s Cineworld, which has become the world’s second-largest movie theater chain, filed for bankruptcy protection in the US.
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The near collapse was painful for both Gradinger and his shareholders.
Documents seen by The Mail on Sunday show the group, once worth £4.4bn, has dwindled to a final £4m. This figure was far from the funds needed to pay 30,000 employees worldwide or keep 9,000 screens running.
“Two and a half years ago, our life’s work collapsed,” he said at the hearing. “Because of Covid-19, I fight every day to save what we have built.
“We have been an unparalleled success story. I don’t think there are many Israeli companies that have achieved the status of the second largest cinema chain in the world.”
However, the company has been thrown a lifeline. A multi-billion-pound bailout package agreed to by Cineworld creditors earlier this month will allow the company to embark on a radical restructuring process.
Its theaters will remain open and its shares are still traded, albeit at a fraction of their peak value.
In a presentation to creditors earlier this month seen by The Mail on Sunday, Cineworld attributed its troubles to the Covid crisis and the delayed return of Hollywood blockbusters that followed. It describes the pandemic as a “plot twist” in the group’s colorful rise and fall.
There was little mention on the presentation slides of his most ambitious deal, the one that marked the peak of Greidinger’s ambitions.
A $1.65 billion (£1.45 billion) deal to buy Canadian giant Cineplex fell through just months after the Covid hit. Cineworld received an £800m legal bill for terminating the deal, which took a heavy toll on the group’s already growing debt pile.
The network said its post-Covid problems have been exacerbated by production delays that have delayed the release of films such as the James Bond film No Time to Die and Marvel Comics’ Black Widow. The queues in its foyer seem unlikely to match the 275 million visitors in 2019. Cineworld received 80 million customers in the first six months of 2022. But the stock is trading at 2.7p, less than 1% from its 2019 high.
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Greidinger is hoping to see more releases later this year, including the romantic comedy Ticket to Heaven, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts; Avatar: Path of Water; or, more appropriately, the disaster movie Halloween Ends will help save the band’s fortune.
The company’s struggles haven’t stopped Gradinger from garnering lucrative Cineworld awards, including £1.48m in 2021. Last month, The Mail on Sunday reported that he and his brother Israel have received almost £26m from Cineworld over the past eight years.
Barry Norris of Argonaut Capital Partners, who is short of Cineworld, criticized pay and bonuses as the company lost billions and received vacation money.
He said, “These guys were withdrawing money during the good times. And in bad times, they still paid themselves well.
“One of the things I can’t understand is how you could manage such a disaster and still not retire.”
But Greidinger’s thoughts would soon return to the Israeli courts that convicted him – a rare and dubious reward for a London-based company boss.
His conviction stems from a lawsuit filed by the Israeli antitrust authority that found that one of his companies withheld films from a competitor in Tel Aviv. The court accepted the plea deal.
“This is a difficult moment for me,” he said at the time. “A criminal conviction is not what I expected after so many years.”
The court will decide next month whether he will be sentenced to a fine or a suspended prison sentence.
Despite his troubles, Greidinger said that neither he nor Cineworld would be moving anywhere quickly.
“Our goal remains to further accelerate our strategy so we can solidify our position as the best place to watch movies,” he said.
Undoubtedly, there will be several more plot twists in this story.
Credit: www.dailymail.co.uk /