Lionsgate management is considering spinning off premium cable channel Starz into a separate company, Variety has confirmed.
Lionsgate had no comment on the possible move, first reported Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter. The WSJ report also said “no final decisions” have been made.
Sources have indicated that a Starz spin-off is one of several strategic options under review — though no action is expected imminently. Another step being explored is the creation of a special-purpose acquisition company, which could lead to a public offering and with part of Lionsgate’s $2.9 billion in debt to the new company.
Lionsgate bought Starz for $4.4 billion in 2016. Starz was without a CEO for more than six months this year following the departure of Chris Albrecht in March. Starz promoted chief operating officer Jeffrey Hirsch to the CEO slot last week.
Lionsgate executives are exploring how they can better unlock value that they perceive isn’t currently being recognized by Wall Street. At the annual meeting on Sept. 11, chief executive officer Jon Feltheimer offered a bullish outlook and pledged to seek an improved Wall Street profile for the company — which has seen its stock lose more than half its value over the past year. Shares closed down 37 cents on Tuesday at $8.95.
Shares also took a hit in late August after a report said Comcast had informed the company it planned to drop its premium-cable Starz network, home to “Power” and “Outlander.” The current pact has two and a half months to run. Starz was the subject of buyout speculation this spring with CBS rumored to have made a $5 billion offer that was spurned. Starz was acquired by Lionsgate in 2016 for $4.4 billion.
Feltheimer said last month that Starz has enabled Lionsgate to become a major player in the subscription business with over 27 million subscribers. He also said Lionsgate’s investment in 3 Arts Entertainment led to collaboration on three shows that have been picked up to series and sales of another 10 shows to various networks. Additionally, he noted that several Lionsgate movie titles have over-performed and that buzz was building for Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” and Jay Roach’s “Bombshell.”