Voters elect Image over rival Lionsgate

Burns says company not yet decided on its next move

It’s official — Image won last week’s proxy vote. But Lionsgate is not about to give up the fight.

The mini-major vowed to keep pressing the homevid outfit for better shareholder value after Tuesday’s release of the official tally, which saw Image’s board of directors slate garnering 56% of votes, compared with a 38% to 43% tally for Lionsgate’s dissident candidates.

All of Image’s candidates received upward of 10.2 million votes, with the top Lionsgate candidate nabbing 7.9 million votes at the Oct. 10 election. The final results match earlier reports (Daily Variety, Oct. 11).

Lionsgate vice chair Michael Burns said the company had not yet decided on its next move, but made it clear the mini-major would protect its stake in the company. Lionsgate has an almost 19% stake in the Woodland Hills-based outfit and has been trying to acquire it for the past year. So far, however, Image has rebuffed Lionsgate’s offers.

“We are not known for our passive nature, nor for going quietly into the night,” Burns said. “Up to this point, we have certainly lived up to our reputation for being active.”

Lionsgate maintains that its candidates won a majority of independent shareholders not affiliated with either company, calculating that it won 4 million of those voters, compared with 1 million for Image.

“That’s a pretty clear message from the unaffiliated shareholder base that they are not happy with the status quo,” Burns said.

Image CEO and chair Marty Greenwald disagreed, saying Lionsgate’s interpretation of the results discounted the right of shareholders like John Kluge to vote for the candidates they felt best qualified to oversee the company.

“It’s like saying all the Image shareholders in Rhode Island voted for Lionsgate,” Greenwald said. “It’s over and the lights are out in the stadium and everyone’s gone home, but Michael Burns is standing there screaming,” he said.

He said it’s time for them to concentrate on making their business better.

“Everyone does,” Greenwald said. “Lionsgate does, too, and it’s a difficult market.”

He said he and the management team have taken everything CEO Jon Feltheimer and Burns have suggested seriously. “We’re out there pounding everyone on how we can make our business better.”

However, Burns didn’t seem entirely convinced Image had taken these recommendations to heart. Greenwald said he would love to have breakfast with Burns.

“It was a really difficult fight,” Greenwald said. “This was my first proxy fight, and I don’t want to do it again.”

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