MGM actively seeking buyer

Studio has recruited advisors with value now pegged at $5.5 billion.

Back in mid-October we reported that MGM’s largest shareholder, New York hedge fund Anchorage Capital Group, was under pressure to put the studio up for sale. That came following the decision to postpone the release of No Time to Die for a second time due to the pandemic.

Later the same month MGM opened talks with Apple and Netflix about exclusive year-long streaming rights. Those ended when it became clear that MGM’s expectations were well off what either was prepared to pay.

Yesterday Variety reported on a (paywalled) piece by the Wall Street Journal in which a source claims MGM is now actively seeking a buyer. The studio has recruited Morgan Stanley and LionTree LLC to advise.

MGM is has been owned by its former creditors, a group of hedge funds led by Anchorage, since the studio exited bankruptcy in 2010. It is extremely unusual for hedge funds to retain their stake in an investment a decade on.

In 2016 MGM was close to selling to a Chinese buyer for $8 billion  before the government there cracked down on foreign investments.

The price at which privately traded shares change hands values MGM at $5.5 billion, including debt. The studio believes its content library, including all the James Bond films, makes it attractive to streaming services.

It’s therefore doubly ironic that former CEO Gary Barber was fired in 2018 for talking to Apple without board approval. Those talks were said to value MGM in excess of $6 billion.

So what if one of the streaming platforms does buy MGM?

That’s the big question for No Time to Die. If it does go to a streaming service the new buyer will want to use the new Bond as leverage to max out new subscribers.

But Barbara Broccoli is completely against the film going direct to streaming.

She reportedly intervened in the Apple/Netflix talks back in October. But whether she could stop a new partner in the Bond series from doing just that is unknown. It is easy to see it could end up as a costly court battle.

As for MGM, the studio’s real value is in its back catalogue and in its 50 percent stake in James Bond, not as an active studio going forward. It is possible that MGM – and Leo the lion with it – disappears completely but with a bit of luck one of the classic Hollywood studios will be kept alive even if it is only for the James Bond series.

At the moment it is anyone’s guess when we’ll finally get to see No Time to Die as April 2021 is already looking shaky.

Meanwhile fans are split about what they would prefer. You can’t please all the people all the time and, anyway, fans have no say in the matter. But some want it as soon as possible and should be happy to see it as a premium video on demand (PVOD) release.

Against that are the fans who believe Bond can only truly be appreciated on the big screen. But even there you’ll find some believe it should released now while others think it is worth waiting the pandemic out for a cinematic release.

And what is the future of James Bond going forward? That is the real $5.5 billion question.

Source: Variety

David Leigh founded The James Bond Dossier in 2002. A fan of 007 since the age of 8, he is also author of The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond. You can order a copy here if you don't own it already.

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