Business Irish

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Keano helped bankroll €2bn 'Avatar' movie

'X-Men', 'Night at the Museum' and 'A-Team' among blockbusters backed by top Irish players

Nick Webb

Published 13/11/2011 | 05:00

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CELEBRITY BACKING: 'Avatar', was funded in part by Robbie Keane

While the euro may be threatening to implode, Irish footballers are still making a fortune through some extraordinary investments in Hollywood blockbusters.

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Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane -- who scored two goals in Ireland's 4-0 play-off win against Estonia on Friday-- has emerged as a backer of massively successful Hollywood movies such as Avatar, X-Men, Rise of Planet of the Apes, Night at the Museum and A-Team.

The personal finances of top Irish Premiership footballers are closely guarded from prying eyes by phalanxes of advisers and complex corporate structures. However, the Sunday Independent can reveal Keane's involvement in a number of lucrative film finance partnerships over the past seven years. Keane -- thought to be Ireland's richest footballer -- is not the only member of the national squad to have made hay from backing successful Hollywood movies. John O'Shea, the former Manchester United defender who has 70 caps for Ireland, and Kevin Kilbane are also involved in bankrolling Hollywood's blockbusters.

It has emerged that Keane is a member of the Inside Track 1 llp, Inside Track 2 llp and Phoenix Film Partners llp, which are financial partnerships put together by London based Ingenious Investments. The company declined to comment. Film finance partnerships have major tax benefits as well as generating major returns if movies are successful, according to sources.

The Republic of Ireland striker -- who moved to the MLS team LA Galaxy last summer -- was also a member of three other Ingenious Film Partnerships, which co-produced some of the most successful films in recent years. He stepped down as a member earlier this year.

Ingenious Film helped finance James Cameron's 3D extravaganza Avatar, which became the most successful film ever released after its debut in 2009. It is thought that Avatar's budget was well north of €150m but it grossed more than €2bn worldwide, netting massive profits for its backers. Other production credits for the investment vehicle include the €110m budget X-Men Origins, €81m epic Australia and the Ben Stiller hit movie Night at the Museum, which grossed €422m worldwide.

Keane's fellow investors in the Ingenious Partnerships included his new teammate David Beckham, Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs, former teammates Wes Brown and Nicky Butt, as well as Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen, musician Gareth Gates, cricketer Marcus Trescothwick, and Anton Ferdinand -- the footballer at the centre of the John Terry race row.

Keane has been an investor in the Phoenix Film Partnership since 2008. The partnership has helped finance the production of the €81m budget A-Team, which was released last year, starring Liam Neeson. The movie underperformed at the box office, bringing in just €56m in the US and €75m in other markets.

"The partnership is well paced to benefit from the future exploitation by the commissioning distributor of the three films . . . as its remuneration for the production of those films is calculated by reference to their respective gross sales receipts," according to Phoenix Film Partners documents.

Phoenix Films was sitting on members' interests of more than €126m at the end of April 2011. Fellow members of the partnership include Ireland full back Kevin Kilbane, controversial footballer Joey Barton and celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall.

Keane has been an investor in the Inside Track Partnerships since 2003, soon after he joined Tottenham Hotspur from Leeds United in a €8.5m deal.

Inside Track 1 llp had members' interests of €201m in April of this year, according to company documents. Films backed by the fund include Alien vs Predator and Hotel Rwanda.

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