Caledonia Investments plc., announce that it has acquired a majority stake in Cooke Optics Group Ltd, the UK manufacturer of premium cinema lenses for the film, television and advertising industries, in a transaction which values the business at £96.5M ($US128M).

Founded as a lens manufacturer in 1886, Cooke has been at the centre of the film making business for over a century. Headquartered in Leicester, it is led by Les Zellan (Chairman), Robert Howard (Chief Executive Officer) and Alan Merrills (Chief Operating Officer), the company has some 130 full time employees.

We spoke to Les Zellan, a long time friend of fxguide. He confirmed that he is staying at the company, "along with all the current management in our current roles." Cooke lens have been an industry favorite for decades and their push of i/tech has helped make cameras more high tech with lens metadata recorded that can be used in Post-production. "We always have plans to grow and expand and now it will be easier with the backing of Caledonia." he commented. The Cooke look is what the company is famous for, a sharp yet flattering image that has made their S series lenses popular worldwide (S4, S45 S7 etc).

From The Wizard of Oz, Some Like it Hot, to Star Wars, Iron Man and Harry Potter, Cooke lenses have been the choice of filmmakers for decades.

Caledonia has subscribed £62.5m of equity and £30.0m of debt to acquire approximately 89% of Cooke from its current owners, Growth Capital Partners and Cooke's management team. The management team have reinvested £7.8m of their sales proceeds for the remaining equity.

In its most recent audited consolidated accounts, being for its financial year to 30 June 2017, Cooke reported EBITDA of £7.7m and profit before tax of £2.8m, and at that date had gross assets of £33.8m.

Commenting on the acquisition, Duncan Johnson, Caledonia's Head of Unquoted Investments, said: "We are delighted to have become owners of such an iconic business and brand as Cooke Optics. Its profitability and high cash generation, combined with its strong competitive position in the film making industry globally, makes it ideally suited to Caledonia's unquoted portfolio. We look forward to working with Les Zellan and his team to take advantage of growth opportunities deriving from Cooke's innovation in full-frame camera lens technology, increased demand from China and the expansion of the digital streaming market globally."

Les Zellan, commented: "We are delighted to be partnering with Caledonia in the next phase of Cooke's development. Caledonia's reputation as a long term, supportive investor gives us confidence that we can continue building the Cooke legacy derived from over 130 years of supporting the film industry."

We asked Zellan what changes this might mean for DOPs and crews moving forward "Change to company?  None and everything.  While day to day will not change we will have financial backing of Caledonia and that will allow us to grow and expand as opportunities come along.".


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