Ed Ulbrich Becomes Creative Consultant As Hong Kong's Sun Innovation Takes Over
The Digital Domain story entered a new chapter over the weekend as Hong Kong-based Sun Innovation took over as majority owner of the U.S. VFX studio. Sun spent just over $50 million to buy the 70 percent stake in the company owned by the parent of Galloping Horse U.S. (the other 30 percent of the company is owned by Mumbai's Reliance MediaWorks) and rechristened it Digital Domain 3.0.
That's not a bad mark-up — last September, Digital Domain VFX operations sold in a bankruptcy auction for a total of $30.2 million.
At the same time, the company said Ed Ulbrich would resign his position as CEO of the company and enter a "creative consultant arrangement," while remaining on as producer of Ender's Game, which is slated for release November 1. Ulbrich is being replaced by Daniel Seah, an executive from Sun. Sun said it is in a strategic partnership with Beijing Galloping Horse in China.
“I’ve spent many wonderful years at Digital Domain and was honored to have been trusted to lead the company through its acquisition and to help set the strategic path forward,” Ulbrich said in a prepared statement. “Now, with the ownership having brought the company under Sun Innovation, a solid, significant public company, and Digital Domain 3.0 into its next phase, I am looking forward to returning to the creative side of the business to pursue producing full-time. I look forward to continuing a fruitful relationship with Digital Domain 3.0 as we move forward.”
It's not entirely clear why the 21-year old company thought DD 3.0 would be a good fit for its portfolio. At its sparse website, the company highlights its businesses in commercial and residential property development and management and trading metal scraps and Chinese tea among Asian countries. But in an interview with The Wrap, Seah says improving the quality of visual effects for the Chinese market will be a low bar to clear: "The visual effects suck in China."
In the U.S., Digital Domain has been in the process of moving its production work to Vancouver, where clients can take advantage of tax subsidies. The company plans to remain headquartered in Los Angeles, but says it will move out of its Venice studio upon the expiration of its existing lease at the end of 2013, consolidating its U.S. feature film and advertising offices in its facility in nearby Playa Vista, CA.