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Michael Burns

Lionsgate

THE DEALMAKER: Lionsgate is a rare Hollywood creature: a studio that’s managed to stay independent, grow, and boast a nearly debt-free balance sheet.

Much credit goes to vice chairman Michael Burns, a former investment banker who, alongside co-chairman/CEO Jon Feltheimer, has transformed Lionsgate into a mini-major with revenue of $1.5 billion. Market cap has soared to well over $1 billion.

Burns was key to closing Lionsgate’s new $340 million revolving credit facility with JPMorgan and a group of banks. “The fact that we could close that facility in this market was great,” says Burns. “In a very leveraged environment, Lionsgate finds itself very underleveraged.”

Solid financials allow Lionsgate to jump on deals. Acquisitions include Mandate Pictures, Roadside Attractions, Debmar-Mercury, U.K. DVD distributor Elevations Sales (with StudioCanal) and a chunk of Break.com, a digital studio with an online entertainment channel.

Lionsgate launched FEARnet with Sony and Comcast, and is working with partners Viacom, Paramount and MGM on a new premium movie channel.

On the smallscreen, Lionsgate is behind “Weeds” on Showtime and “Mad Men” on AMC.

KEY DEALS: Closed $340 million financing in rocky market; beefied company up across sectors with buys of Mandate Pictures, Roadside Attractions, Debmar-Mercury, Break.com.

DEALMAKER DOS: “Never assume something’s not for sale — always ask.”

DEALMAKER DON’TS: “Don’t lose your objectivity when deals get too expensive. You cannot fall in love.”

TOP DEALMAKERS ENCOUNTERED: Bob Iger; Mark Leavitt at Piper Jaffray; Joe Ravitch at Goldman Sachs; John Miller at Chase

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