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Lion’s still hunting

MGM sez it will continue pursuing biz combos

HOLLYWOOD — MGM execs told Lion’s shareholders Monday that the studio will continue to pursue biz combos but declined to discuss particulars.

“We must grow through business combinations, always cognizant that any transaction must be driven by logic and not ambition,” chairman-CEO Alex Yemenidjian told about 125 shareholders and others at an annual meeting held in Beverly Hills.

When pressed by a shareholder for an update on reports that MGM was “in play” a few months ago, Yemenidjian declined to discuss such sale “rumors.”

But he allowed that the Santa Monica-based studio continues to pursue a more vertically integrated corporate structure and added, “We have been in discussions from time to time in pursuing that.”

As usual at MGM confabs, there was little additional questioning from shareholders. And with 77% of its stock controlled by billionaire financier Kirk Kerkorian, there was never any doubt that the handful of agenda action items would pass handily.

Keeping Andersen

One such item involved the retention of beleaguered accounting firm Arthur Andersen as corporate auditor.

Andersen has “consistently rendered high-quality auditing services” for MGM, Yemenidjian said and recommended the firm be retained. The motion carried by a wide margin.

Also approved were the recommended return of all board directors and an amended stock-incentive plan for Lion execs. Shareholders agreed to boost the amount of stock allotted to the program 20%, to 36 million shares.

Withholding judgment

Yemenidjian and vice chairman-chief operating officer Chris McGurk acknowledged a couple of underperforming MGM movie releases earlier this year. “Not every film has worked,” McGurk said.

But execs asked shareholders to withhold judgment of the 2002 film slate until year’s end and said Lion has turned a film profit for the past two years. Yemenidjian also touted recent success in boosting library cash flow and lowering operational overhead.

A film-reel presentation of upcoming pics included a first-ever showing of a teaser trailer for Nov. 22 James Bond release “Die Another Day.” Imagery was heavy on special-effects frames of an icicle in the shape of a handgun and shots featuring Halle Berry, who co-toplines with Pierce Brosnan.