Anyone who has seen Rob Lowe aping Robert Wagner in The Spy Who Shagged Me, or playing the music exec Benjamin Kane in Wayne’s World, knows two things: The guy can do funny and the guy can do unctuous. But can he do business?
Mr. Lowe is part of the consortium that sealed a $660 million deal last week to the buy the Miramax library from Disney. The group includes the private-equity firm Colony Capital and its founder, Tom Barrack, as well as Ron Tutor, a construction magnate. In fact, the purchase of the Miramax library is the first on behalf of a “media fund” that Mr. Lowe and Mr. Barrack recently formed.
Colony is primarily a real estate hedge fund with holdings in hotels and buildings around the world. But in recent years, it has branched into some unconventional and eclectic investments, including buying control of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, helping Annie Liebovitz out of her financial troubles and owning the soccer team Paris St. Germain. In fact, Mr. Barrack recently told an Italian magazine that real estate is no longer Colony’s core business, but “inefficiencies” in celebrity and entertainment could be. “It’s an area that generates huge amounts of cash. Huge profits could be earned.”
It is entirely plausible that he is a business genius whose abilities have never been fully realized because he is just too good-looking and effective at his day job.
Mr. Lowe knows the world of celebrity as well as anyone, having served burst as a charter member of the Brat Pack with such flicks as St. Elmo’s Fire and Youngblood. He was ahead of his day when he was embroiled in a video sex scandal involving (too) young fans, and later made for tabloid fodder with some kind of nanny blackmail scandal. And, although it can be argued that he never achieved the level of stardom as an adult that he did as a young star, he has maintained a solid career, perhaps most memorably through his years on The West Wing. Neither Mr. Lowe nor Mr. Barrack came to the phone, but apparently the pair met a decade ago in Mendocino and Mr. Barrack has advised the actor on other investments, which led to their recent, unlikely pairing.
In fairness to Mr. Lowe, it is entirely plausible that he is a business genius whose abilities have never been fully realized because he is just too good-looking and effective at his day job. Who knows, he could be the model for a whole new generation of actor-cum-players. For most of the 1990s, the model was the “production deal” with a big Hollywood studio that wanted the actor’s star power aligned with it. But many of those deals have been cut or downsized. Tom Cruise took a stab at mogul-dom by assuming the titular helm of United Artists a few years ago, but that has fizzled. But there are rare examples-like the producer Robert Evans or Ron Howard or the pre-meltdown Mel Gibson-of people who moved from the other side of the camera to demonstrate business chops. CBS boss Leslie Moonves, for one, started out as a journeyman actor, turning up on episodes of Cannon and The Six Million Dollar Man. Last year, he got paid $43 million. Who wouldn’t want to be in his pack?