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Lion Taylor-made

CFO to take MGM reins after Sony deal

The money man is taking over the Lion.

Chief financial officer Daniel Taylor will head MGM as prexy once it becomes a private company controlled by Sony, Comcast and a consortium of investors later this year.

His ascension makes clear that the once powerhouse studio will soon be primarily an operating entity, with a topper whose job it is to keep the books, manage assets and report to its new corporate parents.

Indeed, Taylor’s responsibilities aren’t expected to change much. It’s the job of heading MGM that has changed to match that of a CFO.

With an exec under them in the current structure taking over, there’s no doubt left that CEO Alex Yemenidjian and chief operating officer Chris McGurk will move on once the deal closes, most likely by the summer.

Smooth sailing

Announcement of a new topper at this point surprised many and indicates that work to finalize the deal and integrate MGM with Sony is proceeding smoothly. The only major hurdle left to the $4.8 billion acquisition is regulatory approval from European authorities.

Taylor’s promotion makes clear that all creative decisions will now be handled at Sony Pictures, which will assume operational control once the deal is complete. With no creative execs left at MGM, Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton, along with those under them, will e making the calls about development, production and distribution at the Lion.

What’s still uncertain is what pics will go out under the MGM name beyond those currently in development and franchises such as James Bond and “Pink Panther” pics. It’s also yet to be determined whether the United Artists label, currently the Lion’s specialty division, will live on.

All the consortium has confirmed is that MGM will release “a smaller slate of theatrical and television product” co-financed by the Lion’s owners and Sony and with distribution handled by the new parent studio.

Cleaning house

Based on the divisions that are likely to remain as part of a privately owned MGM, including contract administration, accounting and inventory management, around 250 employees are expected to stay with the company. That leaves about 1,150 in the Lion’s current ranks who will be looking for new jobs.

Taylor has spent most of his career under MGM chairman Kirk Kerkorian. He initially served with the company from 1985-91 as VP of taxes during one of the mogul’s earlier stints atop the Lion.

When Kerkorian sold the studio in 1991, Taylor became an executive in Kerkorian’s Tracinda Corp. He returned to MGM when Kerkorian purchased it again in 1997, serving first as exec veep of corporate finance and moving up to CFO in 1998.

Taylor first got to know the Lion in 1983 when he worked on its books as a tax attorney at Arthur Andersen.

“I am honored to be selected to lead MGM as we enter this exciting new era, and I am confident that our legacy will endure,” Taylor said in a statement. “Working with our two libraries, Sony and MGM will now be able to provide access to the world’s largest collection of film and television content while we continue to aggressively pursue new technology and distribution options that will create a host of new opportunities and choices for consumers for many years to come.”

It’s still unclear where McGurk will land, though he’s likely searching for another creative exec role.

Yemenidjian, who has a long, close history with Kerkorian, has been mum on his future plans although he’s indicated that he has some irons in the fire. He came to MGM from the casino side of the business, and many have speculated he may return.

(David S. Cohen and Jill Goldsmith contributed to this report.)

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