Financer of 'Greek Wedding' Sold to San Diego Outfit

By CONOR DOUGHERTY
Staff Reporter

Lewis Horwitz Organization, the venerable lender specializing in financing motion pictures, has been sold again, this time to San Diego-based ITLA Capital Corp. for $100 million in cash.

LHO will become a division of Imperial Capital Bank, ITLA's banking subsidiary, maintaining its offices in Century City with no changes in staff.

"We're very pleased that we are able to handle our clients as usual," said Lewis Horwitz, founder and president of LHO.

While the profitable LHO was Southern Pacific Bank's most desirable operating unit, regulators forced the sale, which comes at an attractive 1.01 times book value for ITLA.

"We were the only marketable division," Horwitz said. "We are a very compact division, a little company unto itself, so it was much easier to sell off LHO as a division than it would be to sell off assets in pieces. It would be good to have kept us, because we were making money, but when you're in a pinch you do what you have to."

Timothy Doyle, ITLA's chief financial officer, said the company is seeking to diversify away from its primary business, commercial real estate lending. "They've got a nice little niche business," he said.

Horwitz was the first lender to seek out independent productions 31 years ago as a branch manager for Beverly Hills National Bank. "That was the time at which people wanted to leave the employ of film studios. They would come in and talk about it, so I said let me see if I could start a division to lend to independents," said Horwitz, who dabbled in acting before becoming a banker.

That led to the formation of LHO, which has since financed more than 500 films for a total of more than $1 billion. One of Horwitz' first breaks came when he was asked for a loan from Mary Tyler Moore and then-husband Grant Tinker, which ultimately led to the creation of the Mary Tyler Moore show.

Recent films include "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," "Ali" and "Cookie's Fortune."

Horwitz first sold out to Imperial Bank in 1989. Imperial, now part of Comerica, sold the business to Southern Pacific Bank in 1999.

But federal regulators have been dogging Torrance-based Southern Pacific to bolster its capital position. In December 2000, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the California Department of Financial Institutions ordered Southern Pacific to dispose of assets and raise its equity capital.

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