China’s Alibaba Group, flush with some $25 billion in cash after its blockbuster IPO last month, is interested in acquiring Lionsgate co-chairman Mark Rachesky’s 37% stake in the studio, according to a report.
Rachesky, through his MHR Fund Management investment firm, owns 37.4% of Lionsgate’s shares. A sale of his stake to Alibaba could be announced in November or perhaps sooner, the New York Post reported Friday, citing anonymous sources.
Lionsgate and Alibaba reps declined to comment on the report. Rachesky and reps for MHR did not respond to requests for comment. New York-based MHR manages about $6 billion of capital.
Lionsgate and Alibaba this summer announced a pact for a subscription-streaming service for mainland China, called Lionsgate Entertainment World, to offer the “Twilight” series of films, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Divergent” and “Mad Men.”
“We would expect Rachesky to command a premium for the de facto 37.4% control position (in Lionsgate),” Wunderlich Securities analyst Greg Brown wrote in a research note Friday. “The activity reinforces recognition of Lionsgate’s fairly unique position as a content engine outside the large media companies. This is apropos as Amazon, Netflix and Yahoo aim at developing distinctive in-house content, where they can realize full eventual rights values.”
In the next week, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma is reportedly leading a delegation to meet with other Hollywood studio execs, including Sony’s Michael Lynton and Paramount’s Brad Grey, as the Chinese e-commerce and media powerhouse explores potential content acquisitions and investments.
Separately, Lionsgate co-chairman and CEO Jon Feltheimer is scheduled to be in Hong Kong next week. He’s scheduled to deliver a keynote at the CASBAA Convention 2014, an engagement that was scheduled six months ago.
In announcing the deal with Alibaba in July, Feltheimer called Alibaba “a world-class brand that is well known and respected among consumers throughout China.” He added, “Alibaba is the kind of entrepreneurial company with whom we like to be in business, and the launch of our streaming service in China underscores our commitment to innovation and leadership in delivering premium content to digital platforms around the world.”