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Ex-Disney chief Cook launches studio

The Walt Disney Company’s former studios chairman Dick Cook has launched a family entertainment-focused studio with the US$150 million backing of a Chinese finance group.

Cook – who spent nearly 40 years at Disney, including a spell as chairman of Walt Disney Studios between 2002 and 2009 – is CEO and chairman of Dick Cook Studios. The business will be based in LA.

Billed as a creative content company focused exclusively on developing, producing, marketing and distributing “multi-generational family entertainment”, including live-action and animated movies, TV series, digital properties, educational media and stage productions.

A major investor is Citic Guoan Group Co., which is part of Chinese conglomerate Citic Group. Citic will invest US$150 million into the business.

“China is very important and this investment will serve as a significant building block in helping us reach our goals,” said Cook. “It took us quite awhile to find the right partners that share our vision to create quality content and our passion of family entertainment through telling rich stories that will travel the globe.”

“With Mr. Cook and his highly respected team, we are guaranteed that every segment of our cooperation will be of the highest standards,” added Citic Guoan chairman Li Shilin, whose company has assets of around US$15 billion in various sectors, including finance, film and television and media.

“They appreciate and understand traditional Chinese culture, and they look forward to telling Chinese stories that will play to families across the globe,” added Shilin. “We both believe that cultural works in spreading love and positive energy is the world’s eternal theme.”

Cook left Disney six years ago having been the only high-level exec left from the Michael Eisner era, which began in 1984. Eisner had left in 2005 following a power struggle that ended with Bob Iger installed as CEO. Since leaving, he joined the board of another emerging LA production powerhouse, Legendary Pictures. Bloomberg reported four years ago he was looking to financiers to fund a family entertainment-orientated film company, which has now come to fruition.

Cook said there would be “many more” announcements in coming weeks and months “as our long standing plans come together”.