Suitors circling MGM

Potential bidders have until Jan. 15

Possible buyers for MGM have a week left to officially get in the game.

The beleaguered Lion has set Jan. 15 as the date for suitors to submit “indications of interest” for purchasing MGM’s assets, according to a knowledgeable source. The submissions are not formal bids, however.

About a dozen parties — a mix of financial players and studios — have signed nondisclosure agreements that give them access to MGM’s internal financials. Moelis & Co., the investment bank handling the sale process, sent out about 20 of the NDAs.

Additionally, MGM has consented to partnerships among potential bidders.

No deadline’s been set for selling the MGM assets, which include the James Bond franchise, a 4,000-title library, the logo, the United Artists operations, rights to the Pink Panther franchise and half-ownership in the upcoming “Hobbit” films. The package is expected to fetch somewhere between $1.5 billion and $2 billion.

MGM hasn’t disclosed the identity of bidders but Time Warner Inc. and Lionsgate have emerged as likely suitors. The studio’s also said it could continue operating as a standalone entity or forming some kind of strategic partnership if MGM’s 140 debtholders agree to do so.

The debtholders have agreed twice to hold off on collecting debt payments through Jan. 31. MGM carries a debt load of $3.7 billion from its 2005 buyout along with payments due next April on its $250 million revolving credit facility.

The Lion released one movie last year — a revamp of “Fame” — and has set “Hot Tub Time Machine” for a March release with “The Zookeeper” and “Red Dawn” set for later in the year.

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