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UFA GmbH, shortened to UFA (German: [ˈuːfa] (listen)), is a film and television production company that unites all production activities of the media conglomerate Bertelsmann in Germany. Its name derives from Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft (normally abbreviated as UFA), a major German film company headquartered in Babelsberg, producing and distributing motion pictures from 1917 until the end of the Nazi era. The name UFA was revived by Bertelsmann for an otherwise unrelated film and television outfit, UFA GmbH.
|Founded||December 18, 1917 , Berlin, Germany|
|Nico Hofmann (CEO), former: Wolf Bauer, Martin Licher|
The original UFA was established as Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft on December 18, 1917, as a direct response to foreign competition in film and propaganda. UFA was founded by a consortium headed by Emil Georg von Stauß, a former Deutsche Bank board member. In March 1927, Alfred Hugenberg, an influential German media entrepreneur and later Minister of the Economy, Agriculture and Nutrition in Hitler's cabinet, purchased UFA and transferred ownership of it to the Nazi Party in 1933.
In 1942, as a result of the Nazi policy of "forcible coordination" known as the Gleichschaltung, UFA and all of its competitors, including Tobis, Terra, Bavaria Film and Wien-Film, were bundled together with Nazi-controlled foreign film production companies to form the super-corporation UFA-Film GmbH (Ufi), with headquarters in Berlin. After the Red Army occupied the UFA complex in 1945 in Babelsberg, and after the privatization of Bavaria and UFA in 1956 in West Germany, the company was restructured to form Universum Film AG and taken over by a consortium of banks. However, in film production and distribution, it failed to revive and went into receivership.
In 1964, Bertelsmann's Chief Representative, Manfred Köhnlechner, acquired the entire Universum Film AG holdings from Deutsche Bank, which had previously been the main UFA shareholder and which had determined the company's business policy as head of the shareholders' consortium. Köhnlechner bought UFA, which was heavily in debt, on behalf of Reinhard Mohn for roughly five million Deutschmarks. (Köhnlechner: "The question came up as to why not take the entire thing, it still had many gems.") Only a few months later, Köhnlechner also acquired the UFA-Filmtheaterkette, a movie theater chain, for almost eleven million Deutschmarks.
In 1997, UFA and the Luxembourgish rival CLT established the joint venture CLT-UFA, which, following the takeover of British rival Pearson Television, was restructured as RTL Group in 2000. Now, UFA GmbH (UFA) works as a subsidiary of RTL Group's production division FremantleMedia, which had been formed out of Pearson TV, and is responsible for all production activities of Bertelsmann and FremantleMedia in Germany. Until August 2013, eight subsidiaries operated under the UFA umbrella: UFA Fernsehproduktion, UFA Entertainment, Grundy UFA, Grundy Light Entertainment, UFA Cinema, teamWorx, Phoenix Film and UFA Brand Communication.
In August 2013, UFA underwent an organizational restructuring that simplified the company down to three production divisions. Today, UFA Fiction, UFA Serial Drama, UFA Show & Factual and UFA Documentary are the four units responsible for production.