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Lion roars with new mane man

Sloan named MGM CEO

Six months after a Sony-led consortium of investors bought MGM, Harry Sloan has been named chairman and CEO of the Lion.

A member of the MGM board of directors, Sloan is also becoming a private investor in MGM, though terms of the investment were not disclosed.

Sloan said one of his top priorities will be to increase new content at MGM, particularly in the area of film production. To this end he will be bringing on additional staff, including production execs.

Move comes just a week after Sloan sold his European broadcast company SBS Broadcasting — the second largest in Europe — to PKS Media for $2.6 billion. Sloan started the company in 1990 with $5 million.

Sloan takes over the chairmanship from Jonathan Nelson, CEO of Providence Equity Partners, MGM’s largest shareholder. Nelson had been named interim chairman when MGM was sold.

MGM prexy Dan Taylor will retain his title and role in the company, now reporting to Sloan.

Sloan was approached about the job by the Providence Equity management team, a group he’s known for several years.

“I have a high regard for them, and after I sold SBS, they came to me about this, and I decided it was a great opportunity,” Sloan said.

Since April the Lion has existed as a privately held company whose primary function is to exploit a 4,000-title library and co-produce a small number of film and TV projects with new parent Sony Pictures. MGM-owned movies are distributed through SPE.

However, a clause in the contract will allow MGM to become an independent distributor and cease its arrangement with Sony in April, if the company chooses.

Although MGM’s most lucrative business is in homevideo and TV, Sloan said that producing movies “is going to become increasingly important to us.”

To that end, he plans on filling out the executive ranks with new hires, including production execs.

Sloan said that MGM would increasingly be in the business of new content and would “do a lot more than just remake UA and MGM titles.”

“Movies will run the full gamut of MGM having full ownership down to just distribution rights,” he said.

This year MGM has co-financed and co-produced six pics with Sony, including “The Amityville Horror,” “Capote” and “Into the Blue.” (Those films were all developed under the MGM or United Artists banners and distribbed by Sony.)

MGM is also partnering with Sony on the upcoming projects including the new Bond pic “Casino Royale” and “Rocky Balboa,” the latest in the “Rocky” franchise, along with a handful of others.

Sloan’s overall priority at MGM is “augmenting content and developing it for the new channels in the digital world.”

“Coming from my international experience, I’ve seen that there are going to be perhaps 400 million new digital homes by 2010,” he said. “So what we have with MGM content and the new movies that we’re going to be producing is, I feel, the best movie library in the world to respond to that digital opportunity.”

Sloan said his goal was to increase MGM’s presence on international distribution channels, including digital cable, satellite and digital terrestrial TV, direct video to handheld devices and Web-based technology.

Referring to his distribution experience at SBS, Sloan said, “I’m choosing to switch over to the content side now because I believe in developing for that market.”

In addition to SBS, Sloan has invested in and headed two other media companies: Lions Gate Entertainment and New World Entertainment.

In 1999, SBS became the largest shareholder in Lions Gate, another film production company with a substantial library.

Prior to founding SBS, Sloan served as chairman of New World Entertainment, which he purchased in 1983. He led New World’s initial public offering in 1985, acquired the Marvel Entertainment Group in 1986 and sold the business in 1989.

Sloan, who reports in his new post this week, will be based at MGM’s Century City headquarters, where 90% of the company has been consolidated. Previously, MGM also had offices in Santa Monica.

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