Icahn the Marvel man

Court rules for bondholders; sale talks swirl

NEW YORK — Carl Icahn is today likely to take control of Marvel Entertainment, following a court decision in Delaware Thursday in favor of the bankrupt company’s bondholders.

Once in control, Icahn is expected to sell Marvel, possibly to a Hollywood studio. Rumors of possible deals swirled around Wall Street Thursday, with everyone from MGM to Live Entertainment seen as possible buyers for Marvel.

Hollywood attraction

Marvel’s attraction to Hollywood is its collection of characters, which include Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four. For MGM, a deal with Marvel would offer the added advantage of making MGM a publicly traded company.

Icahn and other bondholders, holding almost $900 million of bonds in Marvel, will be free to foreclose on Ron Perelman’s controlling stock in Marvel and take control of the company’s board after 5 p.m. today, when a court stay issued earlier this year expires.

Reuters reported Thursday that Judge Roderick McKelvie of the U.S. District Court in Delaware upheld Thursday a lower court ruling allowing the bondholders to take control of the stock.

‘Not there yet’

“It’s kind of like they’re almost there but they’re not there yet. Other things could happen but they won a big one in court today,” said a person close to the situation.

Wall Street sources said Thursday MGM was contemplating a deal with Marvel in which Icahn would merge his interest in the company into the Lion. MGM is known to have been interested in developing the Spider-Man character into a movie in a joint agreement with Sony Pictures.

But people close to MGM discounted the chances of such a deal while a spokesman for the Lion declined comment. The legal issues surrounding the company would make any deal tough to do, Wall Streeters say.

Wall Street sources said Live Entertainment, which is shortly to be acquired by Bain Capital, may also be looking at a deal with Marvel. Bain has said it wants to build Live through acquisitions. Live refused comment, although people close to the company downplayed the idea. Industry executives point out, however, that Carl Icahn has an adviser on his board who has connections to Live Entertainment, and that that may facilitate a deal.

To explore options

Marvel spokesman said the company would “now explore what options remain to ensure that the current Marvel Entertainment board will have the opportunity to resolve this Chapter 11 case in a manner that serves the best interests of all the parties.”

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