Vestron was founded in 1981 by Austin Owen Furst, Jr. (born 1943), an executive atHBO,who was hired to dismantle some assets of Time-Life:its theatrical, television,and home video divisions. Although he had no problem selling off the former twoassets, Furst was having a hard time selling off the latter, and eventually decided to keepand rename the video division. Furst's daughter suggested "Vestron", named after theRoman goddessVestaand "Tron", which means "instrument" inGreek .
The company held on to its Time-Life Video library, and was also responsible forreleases onVHSvideocassette of mostlyB moviesand films fromCannon Films'library. The most notable titles Vestron released were
.The company was the first company to releaseNational Geographicvideos in the late 1980s, and was the first to market with a prowrestling video, "Pro Wrestling Illustrated Presents Lords of the Ring". They alsoreleased a 3-volume series called "How to Beat Home Video Games", which containsstrategies for video games of the time.
Vestron went public on theNew York Stock Exchangein 1985 with what was at thetime a large market cap IPO of $440MM, which was oversubscribed. The companyenjoyed success for several years, at one point exceeding 10% of the US video moviemarket. At its high point sales approximated $350MM annually, and the company soldvideo movies in over 30 countries either directly or through sub licensing agreements.This was basically a rights business, built by some insightful people who appreciatedthe video(VCR)rights to films before the major studios did.
Eventually themajor studios smartened up, and film product became increasingly harder for Vestron toacquire. Also, independent producers increased the price of those available.The company started to make its own films(
), but when the market's preferences matured and shifted from watching almost anyfilm to just watching "A" titles, for which the majors had a stronghold, the companywas committed already with a pipeline of about 20 "B" to low "A" projects. Financingfor the company fell through and it eventually filed for bankruptcy underChapter 11,and was bought out on January 11, 1991 byLos Angeles-basedLIVE Entertainment,ahome video and music company, for $27.3 million. LIVE acquired Vestron's extensive(3,000 plus) film library.Their international divisions were the second largest just afterWarner Bros.It had manydirect theatrical, video and TV distribution offices all around the world in majormarkets and owned a video manufacturing plant in the Netherlands to supply Europeanmarkets. Today, most of the holdings of Vestron Video are now owned byLions GateEntertainment.