Can the man who restructured Krispy Kreme and Enron save Leo the Lion?
The initial reaction of key Hollywood players to Tuesday’s management shakeup at MGM was one of skepticism.
“Now it’s really going to get ugly,” said one banker, who worries that the new MGM team may find itself “at war” with debt holders.
“MGM doesn’t need a new CEO — it needs someone to write a check for a couple of billion dollars,” said the CEO of a rival company.
The exit of Harry Sloan as CEO (he stays on with the title of chairman) has been viewed as an inevitability for several weeks. The office of CEO will now be divided between three executives, with the key restructuring role going to Stephen Cooper.
Cooper, a corporate turnaround specialist known for dismantling Enron after its collapse and for salvaging Krispy Kreme after its bankruptcy, confronts a $3.7 billion debt load at the Lion, with major payments coming due next year.
“It’s up in the air what can truly be salvaged in the way of assets,” another corporate CEO declared. “This will be an epic task at debt restructuring, if it can be accomplished at all.”
Sloan arrived at MGM in 2005 with the dream of restoring the company to its glory days. Sloan had become a billionaire as a result of his savvy investments in TV in Europe’s fast-expanding media market in the 1980s and ’90s, but he had never cracked the big time in Hollywood.
Sloan had invested in New World Entertainment and Lionsgate before becoming chairman of SBS Broadcasting, a company he sold for about $2.6 billion four years ago.
Many Hollywood players felt Sloan’s ambitions for MGM were optimistic from the start. The economy turned out to be his biggest adversary. The declining DVD market also played havoc with the value of the aging MGM library.
The latest restructuring casts further doubt on MGM’s plans to co-finance future films. Warner Bros. has already explored alternate funding for “The Hobbit.” Observers speculate that the Bond franchise may be one of the assets that come into play.
And some debt holders may favor bankruptcy as a way of clarifying MGM’s nightmarishly complicated structure.
As one executive said, “It’s impossible to figure out what will be left of MGM after this phase is over.”