Par preps for library sale

Soros Fund to pony up $900 mil for 59 titles

Paramount and parent company Viacom were hashing out late Thursday the final points of a sale of the DreamWorks library to Soros Fund Management for about $900 million.

Deal, which will probably be announced today, is likely to meet with a round of smiles on Wall Street.

Viacom had a lot riding on a sale of the 59-title library, which was a cornerstone of Par’s $1.6 billion DreamWorks acquisition late last year. The anticipated library sale made the larger deal financially feasible for Paramount.

Viacom had promised to sell the library for $850 million-$1 billion within several weeks of the larger transaction’s closing. That happened in late January. If the library sale had faltered, the new Viacom would have emerged with egg on its face, roundly slammed by investors.

Instead, a sale dramatically reduces the purchase price for DreamWorks and gives Par cash to pay down debt or put into new productions.

Soros Fund, a giant with some $10 billion under management, emerged as a suitor early on. But some on Wall Street were spooked when a window of exclusivity expired with no agreement.

Viacom retains distribution rights to the library, whose titles include “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Match Point,” “Meet the Fockers,” “Seabiscuit” and “Gladiator.”

Many pics are co-productions. But this library, unlike that of MGM’s library, say, is relatively recent. That ensures a steady stream of cash for some years, warranting the rich pricetag.

Some Wall Streeters said Viacom’s immediate push to sell the library was a rare public acknowledgement of studios’ general belief that the money lies not necessarily in owning pics but in distributing them.

That said, Viacom has been hoping to include the right to ultimately buy back the library in the deal or get some sort of right of first refusal.

These kinds of talks, however advanced, are complicated and can always fall through.