Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum in talks to run studio

Spyglass Entertainment’s Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum are in advanced talks to run MGM, giving the Lion new hope for life.

In exchange, MGM’s creditors would relieve the company of its massive $4 billion debt load and take a majority equity stake in the restructured company, according to insiders close to the deal. That could save the studio from forced bankruptcy.

MGM is sitting on a number of prime film properties, including the James Bond and Hobbit franchises.

Once MGM’s debt restructuring is completed, MGM reportedly intends to list its value at $1.9 billion.

Spyglass is one of Hollywood’s most established co-financing and production companies, working in both film and television. It is owned by private equity company Cerberus Capital Management.

Spyglass would take a 4% stake in MGM, and fold its library into the Lion’s.

Because of nondisclosure restrictions, Birnbaum and Barber would not discuss their negotiations with MGM.

Elsewhere, insiders indicated there could be several sticking points.

Should the plan go ahead, the size and scope of a newly configured MGM remains uncertain.

Barber and Birnbaum don’t necessarily need a full-fledged studio to make MGM work and could strike a deal to distribute their films through a third party, as they do with Spyglass titles. Conversely, one of the appeals of running MGM could be having their own distrib division.

Birnbaum and Barber launched Spyglass in 1998, inking a five-year distribution pact with Disney. It’s second film was B.O. sleeper hit “The Sixth Sense.”

When the deal with Disney ended, Spyglass began partnering with other studios, as well as continuing to finance and make its own films.

Spyglass and Paramount have become fast friends, working together on the reinvigorated “Star Trek” franchise and “G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra.” Spyglass also co-financed and co-produced the Paramount/DreamWorks comedy “Dinner for Schmucks.”

Other recent Spyglass titles include “Get Him to the Greek,” a co-production with Universal; Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus,” a co-production with Warner Bros. and Malpaso Prods., and “Leap Year.”

Past Spyglass studio co-productions include “Bruce Almighty,” “Evan Almighty,” “The Happening,” “The Pacifier” and “Eight Below.”

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