With help from 007, Lion regains its roar Lion's "crown jewel" sped exit from bankruptcy

In recent years, MGM has had almost as many brushes with death as James Bond, but today the Lion is most certainly alive — in part thanks to a rescue by 007.

The Lion went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2010, saddled with $4 billion debt. Within a few weeks it emerged from bankrupcty. Its new management, including co-chairmen and CEOs Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, had succeeded in raising $500 million to get the company back on its feet.

One thing that helped impress invstors: the Bond library and opportunity to continue the most enduring franchise in the history of movies.

“When you have something of that ilk, it’s one of your most significant assets,” Barber told Variety. “Financiers or people coming in rely on that foundation.

“(Bond) is the crown jewels of the company,” says Barber. “When you look at the Lion and you look at James Bond, it’s synonymous with the company.”

Barber and Birnbaum say they were courting Eon principals Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson even before MGM emerged from Chapter 11.

Birnbaum says, “We immediately let Barbara and Michael know that if we were installed as the new co-chairs and CEOs of MGM, it was our first order of business to take care of that franchise.”

Barber and Birnbaum hurried to secure new deals for Eon and Bond rights holder Danjaq, nail down worldwide theatrical distribution (mostly through Sony) and homevideo (20th Century Fox) and get the next Bond into pre-production.

As a result, “Skyfall” will release just two years after they jumped in to take charge of the Lion — and, coincidentally, almost exactly 50 years after the preem of “Dr. No.”

Birnbaum says MGM is “fully engaged” with Bond and promises to continue to make the franchise a priority. “We do not want to have audiences waiting five or six years for the next James Bond.”

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