VER Cinema expands with Fletcher Camera acquisition

Ever since giant national and international LA-based VER (Video Equipment Rentals), opened a Chicago branch 10 years ago, efforts to put down a serious stake in Chicago burgeoning Hollywood entertainment and commercial arenas had eluded it.

Now VER has landed overnight on top of the Chicago cinema business, with its surprise purchase of established Fletcher Camera, announced yesterday. 

Buyer and seller agree that the acquisition is win-win for both of them. Fletcher’s business, estimated at 70% features and scripted TV and 30% commercials, instantly expands VER’s Cinema Division.

Fletcher is relieved of the challenging necessity to keep up with ever-changing variety of equipment and meeting the needs of a demanding environment.

“The synergy between the two companies will be great,” comments VER’s Chicago branch manager Richard Buckley, located in VER’S Franklin Park offices.    

“We couldn’t be more excited to have Fletcher Camera advance VER’s Cinema Division’s commitment to service the cinematographer,” VER owner Vince Dundee says.

Fletcher Camera co-founders Archie Fletcher and Tom Fletcher in 1987VP Tom Fletcher, who in 1987 co-founded the company with his father, company president Archie Fletcher, says the family is very pleased with the buyout, details of which were not disclosed.

VER’s purchase of Fletcher had been initiated by an intermediary and was brewing for several months.  The closing is set for Dec. 6, when the Fletcher Chicago sign will come down after 27 years in business.  It will be replaced by a new VER brand name for what will be the company’s new Chicago entity.

Company staff remains in place

Zoe BorysTom FletcherVER is keeping the entire Fletcher staff intact: eight in Chicago, and five in New Orleans and one in Detroit. Former VP Tom Fletcher and former general manager Zoe Borys will remain as key people in the new operation.  Their new titles also TBD.

“I was relieved and happy to hear Tom and his staff are going to stay in place,” says long-time Fletcher client Lisa Masseur, EP at One at Optimus.

“They know how to service this industry and they routinely go above and beyond to make their clients happy.  It would have been devastating to lose such an advocate in our production community.  Thankfully, that’s not happening.”

New location will be close to downtown

With Fletcher’s lease expiring April 30 on the Goose Island building it has occupied for 15 years, the new division will relocate to another near-downtown area.  VER and Fletcher say it’s too early to name a location since they have six months to make that important decision.

The VER purchase did not include its 22-year old Fletcher Sports Camera division. VP/CFO Sally Fletcher will remain with the sports side.  Like her father and brother, she feels good about the change and feels it will help the community to grow.  “VER is a good company for Chicago, with its global offices, experience and connections,” she says.

Fletcher Camera will be missed, says Wayne Kubacki of Essanay Studio & Lighting of their long-standing neighbors a few blocks down the street.

 “The Fletchers set benchmark for professionalism and a prime example of how a small business should be run, with integrity and honesty.

“I wish Archie and Sally much continued success with the sports business and my very best wishes to Tom for much continued success in his new role at VER.  The sale is a huge opportunity and a total win-win for the community.”

The acquisition announcement was fortuitously timed for Fletcher and Borys, who leave Friday night to fly to the prestigious Camera Image International Festival in Bydgoszcz, Poland, where they will bring word of their new brand to the great film directors and cinematographers who will be attending from around the world.