Eccentric billionaire loans Quickflix $6m

01:42, Jan 04 2013
Alki David
ECCENTRIC: Media entrepreneur Alki David was described by The Hollywood Reporter as one of Hollywood's "biggest troublemakers".

Quickflix, the Australian-based internet pay-television service that moved into New Zealand last year, has secured a A$5 million (NZ$6.32m) loan from an eccentric United States billionaire that should guarantee its short-term survival.

The company, which has lobbied for the greater regulation of Sky Television, agreed to accept the loan from investors led by media entrepreneur Alki David.

The Hollywood Reporter described David as one of Hollywood's "biggest troublemakers" in an April article that said he once offered $1m to anyone who would streak in front of US President Barack Obama.

The son of a Greek Coca-Cola bottling magnate, the thrice-married David has also been a part-time actor and model-agency owner.

The terms of the interest-bearing loan would allow David and his fellow investors to convert the debt to shares from June at a 20 per cent discount to Quickflix' prevailing share price and would need to be approved by existing shareholders at a meeting next month.

David, who will join Quickflix' board, said he believed Quickflix' growth prospects were "staggering".

Quickflix entered into an agreement with New Zealand's Freeview last month that will mean FreeviewHD viewers who connect their set-top boxes or TVs to broadband will be able to access Quickflix service via their Freeview electronic programming guides.

Freeview chief executive Sam Irvine has signalled he expects that deal to be the first of many allowing viewers to receive pay-television services through Freeview's platform.

Trading in Quickflix shares was suspended for two weeks in November while the company sought funding and in the wake of the resignation of chief executive Chris Taylor. The company is currently valued on the Australian Stock Exchange at A$16.7m (NZ$21.13m).

Quickflix provides entertainment programmes and films on an all-you-can-eat subscription basis and pay-per-view, but does not offer sports.

The Commerce Commission is continuing a competition-law investigation it initiated in May considering whether Sky TV's commercial agreements with content providers and internet providers breach the Commerce Act.

The investigation entered a second stage in September, but sources suggested any outcome might still be several months away.

Sky TV has rejected unbundling its sports channels from its other pay-television content and allowing them to be purchased separately - a move that could give a leg-up to entertainment-based rivals such as Quickflix - arguing that doing so would push up the cost of its sports packages well above their current rates.