Mining for Movies

Mining mogul Robert Friedland is following a well worn path from mineral exploration to movies

There’s something about mining and motion pictures that appear to go hand-in-hand in B.C.

Robert Friedland, the mining financier behind a handful of Vancouver-based resource companies over the years, is launching a movie and TV financing company, Ivanhoe Pictures, with a focus on both North America and Asia.

Friedland is the second well-known mining mogul with Vancouver ties to get into the movie business. Frank Giustra, who founded Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. in the late 1990s, has a long history of financing mining and energy companies, both before and after his foray into Hollywood.

Friedland will be chairman of the new company, which he’s launching with partners John Penotti and Ray Chen. Penotti, a producer behind such films as Oscar-nominated In the Bedroom and A Prairie Home Companion, will be CEO. Chen, a Beijing-based media veteran, will be executive vice-president.

Friedland’s well-timed announcement, during the Toronto International Film Festival, capitalizes on his global financing experience and promotional skills.

“My long-held love of film and storytelling is a natural complement to the vision shared by John Penotti and Ray Chen,” Friedland said in his announcement made at TIFF on Sunday.

“With the depths of their professional experience and guidance, Ivanhoe Pictures will be at the forefront of a thriving international film production and distribution marketplace.”

Friedland’s investment company, Ivanhoe Capital Corp., will help support what he called “this exciting, new creative endeavour.”

Hollywood-based Ivanhoe Pictures will finance and produce both film and television projects, and “bridge production opportunities in America and Asia, focusing on China, India, Korea and Japan.” It will also look for English and local language films in a variety of global markets, according to the release.

Friedland is no stranger to the entertainment world. He boasts being one of the first investors in, described as the largest Chinese-language online infotainment web portal. His company also provided the founding venture capital for U.S.-based digital satellite radio service Sirius Satellite Radio, which went on to build SiriusXM.

Friedland was also said to be a strong influence on Apple founder Steve Jobs, back when the two were at Reed College in the U.S., according to an authorized biography of Jobs written by Walter Isaacson.

The movie business is one of Friedland’s next ventures after losing control of his company Ivanhoe Mines to Rio Tinto. Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. was later renamed Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. A few weeks ago, Friedland took back the old title and changed the name of his latest mining venture, Ivanplats Ltd., to the “new” Ivanhoe Mines.