Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will be run by a management team of senior executives following the firing of CEO Gary Barber. The announcement came as the studio behind the James Bond films and TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale” revealed robust earnings for 2017. The executives will operate under a newly created and christened “Office of the CEO.”
“We are all energized and focused in executing on our priority growth initiative,” said Chief Operating Officer Chris Brearton in an earnings call with investors on Wednesday. He added that the company’s business partners have been reached out to and reassured after Barber’s ouster, and stressed that “MGM’s commercial relationships remain strong.”
On paper, the studio’s financial situation is healthy. Revenues grew 10% for the year to $1.3 billion, while earnings per-share topped out at $4.72, a 9% increase. Adjusted EBITDA climbed 5% to $423 million, and net income hit $549 million, which was $393 million higher than the prior year.
“We are eager to focus today’s call on our strong year-end results,” Brearton said. “We will not be addressing questions about Gary’s departure.”
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MGM attributed the strong results to the consolidation of its control of the cable channel Epix (it had been a joint venture with Paramount and Lionsgate), as well as licensing fees from its television programming, a slate that includes “The Voice” and “Vikings.” The company also touted the relaunch of Orion Pictures, a long-dormant film label once associated with such hits as “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Dances With Wolves.” It reminded investors that a new Bond movie is scheduled to hit theaters in 2019.
Barber’s departure stunned Hollywood, both because of its suddenness and because he had recently signed a new five-year deal. He is credited with helping MGM emerge from bankruptcy eight years ago, cleaning up its finances, and relaunching the Bond franchise. However, Barber ran afoul with Kevin Ulrich, chairman-CEO of MGM majority owner Anchorage Capital Group and the head of the studio’s board, over their visions for the future. Barber was more inclined to find someone to buy MGM, whereas Ulrich was more interested in building up the company. There were also concerns that Barber lacked creative chops and that he was not facilitating enough collaboration between MGM’s film and television operations.
Brearton stressed that things had changed with the new management.
“The board has empowered this talented group of leaders to partner with one another and to lead the company with a mission to drive greater collaboration across the organization,” he said. “We are fully committed to the mission and co-invested in each other’s success.”