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Former Par pals consider Polygram bid

Duo would keep studio intact

Former Paramount toppers Lucie Salhany and David Kirkpatrick have become the latest prospectors for Polygram Filmed Entertainment.

Although the details were unclear, it appeared Sunday that Salhany, a former CEO of United Paramount Network, was acting as a “consultant” to the bid, while Kirkpatrick, a former prexy of Paramount Pictures, was spearheading it.

The duo have retained consultant Robert Becker, of finance and accounting firm Arthur Andersen, and a high-powered legal team at attorneys Latham & Watkins, to advise them.

Financing for the Salhany/Kirkpatrick bid, insiders said, is coming from a combination of two unidentified sources, which are likely to be leveraged buyout firms.

However, no information was available as to the identity of these firms. Nor was it clear whether their structure and financing was strong enough to convince Goldman Sachs — which is advising Seagram Co. on the PFE sale — to allow them to perform due diligence on the film studio.

LBO less likely

Wall Street analysts believe that a company with existing entertainment interests is a more likely buyer for PFE than an LBO firm or an LBO-backed consortium. An LBO buyer would need to be prepared to finance a high level of debt, and put up with the inconsistent financial returns of the film biz.

Salhany was not available for comment. Kirkpatrick, who currently is on location in North Carolina producing Shirley MacLaine’s directorial debut, “Bruno,” could not be reached.

PFE is being sold as a result of Seagram’s $10.2 billion acquisition of Polygram Holdings. Goldman and a tripartite committee representing PFE, Seagram and Philips — Polygram’s former owner — are overseeing the disposal of PFE.

PFE management is engrossed in making presentations to prospective bidders. One source said that the Salhany/Kirkpatrick bid was “in process,” but it was unclear whether it was an expression of interest or a full-blown bid.

Sources said that, if successful in acquiring PFE, Salhany and Kirkpatrick did not plan to break the studio up. Some suggested that the plan was double-edged: Salhany would use her expertise to develop Polygram’s television business, while Kirkpatrick would oversee the motion picture division.

Salhany’s support

Salhany quit UPN last fall. Since then she has launched her own Boston-based consultancy and acquisition venture, JH Media. In February she teamed with UPN exec Len Grossi to form LSLG Associates, a firm dedicated to investing in regional TV stations.

According to reports, Grossi and Salhany trawled Wall St. looking for financial backers for LSLG. It is entirely possible that Salhany has persuaded some of these contacts to back her run on PFE.

Kirkpatrick’s 16-year run at Paramount ended in 1991, when he was president of the studio’s motion picture group. He segued into producing, first with Paramount and then with Rysher Entertainment, under his Event Movie Co. and Original Voices monikers.

Pics he has produced or exec produced include “The Opposite of Sex,” “Big Night,” “A Smile Like Yours,” “The Evening Star” and “The Brady Bunch Movie.”

(Jenny Hontz contributed to this report.)

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