Studio near end of 10-day truce with Carl Ichan
The intertwined fates of Lionsgate and MGM may come into focus this week.Lionsgate is near the end of a 10-day truce with Carl Icahn, who owns 37.3% of the company and has agreed to hold off on hostilities so that he and Lionsgate can explore joint acquisitions — with MGM being the obvious target, but with a variety of daunting complications. That truce expires at 9 p.m. PDT today. The cease-fire could be extended, or the two sides could return to the trenches, as Icahn tries to take over the minimajor via a proxy fight. With three other possible suitors vying for MGM — Spyglass Entertainment, Summit Entertainment and Time Warner — what MGM’s debtholders will do remains murky. The debtholders agreed last week to give MGM’s management another two months of relief from making interest payments on MGM’s massive $3.7 billion debt load. Lionsgate stock took back-to-back 4% losses at the end of last week amid uncertainty about the impact of a possible deal with MGM, a factor cited by Caris & Co. analyst David Miller in a downgrade Thursday. The stock lost 27¢ to close at $6.09 in trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange. That was Lionsgate’s lowest closing price since March 23. MGM put itself up for sale last November. Neither company has commented on Lionsgate’s presentation last week to MGM debtholders. But people close to the situation have indicated that it called for a merger, with the surviving entity retaining the MGM name while being headed by Lionsgate toppers Jon Feltheimer and Michael Burns. But closing a deal would be daunting. Lionsgate is probably unwilling to add debt to finance a merger, and terms of the truce bar it from issuing new shares. A merger between Lionsgate and MGM, which own two of the largest libraries in Hollywood, would create an entity with more than 7,000 titles. The Lionsgate library has been built partly through a trio of acquisitions — Trimark in 2000, Artisan in 2003 and Mandate in 2007. A merged MGM-Lionsgate would also have rights to the James Bond franchise and half of the “Hobbit” films; a feature production-distribution arm handling more than a dozen releases a year including the Tyler Perry franchise; a TV production operation that includes “Mad Men” and “Weeds”; parts of TV Guide and the Epix pay TV platform; and a TV syndication arm. Michael Wilson, one of the longtime producers of the Bond movies, reportedly expressed optimism Friday that another Bond movie will go into production soon. Wilson made the comments during an Activision presentation for the videogames “Goldeneye 007” and “James Bond 007: Blood Stone.” Wilson and partner Barbara Broccoli had announced in April that development of the 23rd Bond movie had been placed on hold indefinitely due to the uncertainty over MGM’s ownership.