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No thorn in Lion paw

Meeting placid despite low MGM stock price

HOLLYWOOD — A stone’s throw from the Lion’s new lair in Century City, MGM shareholders on Wednesday held an annual meeting long on corporate cheerleading and short on discernible unrest of any sort.

Most Lion employees recently relocated into the 13-floor MGM Tower, newly constructed adjacent to the large 20th Century Fox studio lot.

“We just moved in with a minimum amount of disruption,” MGM chairman-CEO Alex Yemenidjian told the 100 or so shareholders gathered in a ballroom of the St. Regis hotel.

MGM’s home entertainment unit is remaining behind at MGM Plaza in Santa Monica, with execs saying that site offers more opportunity for future growth.

The studio originally had planned to occupy 17 floors of the 35-floor building, Century City’s first new high-rise in a dozen years. The smaller commitment covers some 350,000 square feet spread over floors 2 through 15 and skipping 13.

JMB Realty of Chicago developed the project, which was under construction for two years. A parking lot was previously situated on the site.

MGM has a 15-year commitment to the building with the opportunity to extend its stay in five-year extensions.

Lion’s original 427,000-square-foot commitment to MGM Tower repped a $3.4 million in annual overhead at an estimated $16.6 million cost. Execs have declined to say what the reduced space commitment will cost, but Yemenidjian told shareholders the new digs’ “prominent signage (and) lower rent” were primary benefits of the move.

Execs have nixed any press tours of the new building prior to a grand opening, tentatively skedded for July. Lion’s maned logo tops the building’s exterior.

The studio’s annual meeting was marked mostly by routine biz such as a board election and the retention of Ernst & Young as auditors, with both items passing with large majorities.

The only change among directors saw USC accounting prof Andy Mosich replace Francis Ford Coppola on the board. The famed filmmaker said he needed to step down after several years on the board due to other pressing commitments.

State of slate

Vice chairman Chris McGurk tubthumped studio’s upcoming film and TV releases, featuring in a video presentation of trailers and clips. He reiterated a new philosophy on film production emphasizing pics that are “highly targeted (with) franchise opportunities.”

Yemenidjian acknowledged company’s current low stock price, though none of the shareholders on hand seemed much worried about it. The only shareholder question sought to confirm that some revenue from last year’s James Bond pic “Die Another Day” will continue to boost 2003 financial results.

“Given recent market conditions, our stock is trading at what we consider a significant discount,” topper said.

MGM has repurchased 6.3 million of its shares in recent months at an average $10.97 per share, he said.

MGM shares fell 26¢ to close at $10.94 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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