MGM watch: WSJ says Icahn trying to force MGM, Lions Gate merger

This is more than enough to make a Bond fan’s head explode. After a day of various media reports (see previous post), News Corp.’s Wall Street Journal is reporting that investor Carl Icahn is trying to force a merger between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. and Lions Gate Entertainment.

The above paragraph has a link to the entire story. The article by Mike Spector and Lauren A.E. Schuker starts like this:

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn bought a significant chunk of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.’s debt and is pushing the beleaguered film studio to merge with rival Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., said people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Icahn is Lions Gate’s largest shareholder, at just under 33%.

Mr. Icahn told people close to MGM earlier this week he holds somewhere between $400 million and $500 million of MGM’s debt outstanding and is continuing to build his position in the studio, they said. The purchases give Mr. Icahn about 10% of MGM’s outstanding debt.

So to recap:

— MGM has been pursuing a complicated deal with Spyglass Entertainment where Spyglass’s top executives would take command of MGM, the company would then pursue a “prepackaged” bankruptcy to try to wipe out its $3.7 billion debt and MGM would just produce TV shows and movies and cut deals with other studios to release any movies (like James Bond movies) the studio is involved with.

— One News Corp. outlet (the New York Post) reported that Time Warner was boosting/was thinking of boosting its bid for MGM. Another News Corp. outlet (Dow Jones Newswires) reported that Time Warner denied that story.

— One News Corp. outlet (the Post again) said Icahn was mulling getting involved, while another (the Journal story story quoted above) said he was already involved.

By the way, we forgot to mention that News Corp. is run by Rupert Murdoch who, supposedly, was one of the inspirations for media magnate/Bond villain Elliott Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies. The late Robert Maxwell and Ted Turner were also mentioned as inspirations for the character played by Jonathan Pryce.

We’ve said it many times, but we’ll repeat: all of this matters for James Bond movie fans because MGM controls half of the 007 franchise. For Bond fans, it’s a case of pass the Alka-Seltzer. It’s even more reason not to count on attending the premier of Bond 23 anytime soon.

MGM watch: the soap opera continues — Indian conglomerates, Carl Icahn, Time Warner

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. still has no completed deal with Spyglass Entertainment yet while Sahara India Pariwar continues to hang around, after originally being rejected. UPDATE I: And this morning there’s a New York Post report that investor Carl Icahn and Time Warner may make some moves. All of which means the fate of Bond 23 remains unsettled.

First, this week on the Sahara India Pariwar front: here’s how AN ASSOCIATED PRESS STORY ON YAHOO’S FINANCE WEB SITE published on Sept. 28 began:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Indian conglomerate Sahara India Pariwar says that the creditors of struggling Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. have agreed to reconsider its $2 billion cash offer for the company.

The development marks a reversal from last week, when Sahara said the creditors committee rejected the offer within hours of a conference call with Sahara chairman Subrata Roy Sahara.

The story quotes a Sahara spokeswoman as saying MGM initially rejected her company’s bid because it had submitted “documentation of its assets in rupees.” Oops.

Carl DiOrio of the Hollywood Reporter followed up the next day. YOU CAN READ THE STORY BY CLICKING HERE. Here’s an excerpt:

Lenders-side sources are uncertain how seriously to take Sahara, in part because the Indian company has dealt only with management so far and has had scant contact with the debtholders. But it’s clear the lenders would be open to reviewing a bid of $2 billion or more for MGM by Sahara or anyone else.

Early Sept. 30, News Corp.’s New York Post weighed in. You can read the entire story BY CLICKING HERE. Here’s an excerpt:

There is renewed interest in movie studio MGM from Time Warner and Carl Icahn, The Post has learned.

Time Warner last week, through back channels, told the hedge funds controlling the studio it could be willing to raise its offer to $1.7 billion from $1.5 billion. The hedge funds rejected the idea, a source with direct knowledge of the situation said.
(snip)
Meanwhile, Icahn, who already owns roughly $500 million of MGM’s $4 billion in debt, is buying more, the source with direct knowledge said, adding that he would not be surprised if Icahn, through Lionsgate Entertainment, soon offers a new proposal.

These stories need to be read carefully. Note the Post’s unnamed source is quoted as saying he wouldn’t be surprised if Icahn would make a bid, but that’s not the same thing as *knowing* the investor would make a bid. Interestingly, even though the story by Josh Kosman and Claire Atkinson begins with Time Warner, the online edition headline is, “Icahn mulls new proposal for MGM.”

If Time Warner is really interested, as the Post says, it would mark a change of attitude. Recently, Time Warner didn’t have kind words for MGM.

UPDATE II: On The Wall Street Journal’s Web site, there’s a Dow Jones News Service story quoting Time Warner AS DENYING THE NEW YORK POST STORY. The Journal and Dow Jones News Service are also owned by News Corp., the New York Post owner.

Like other Bond fans, we’re suffering from MGM fatigue. (The way we had to update this post twice today is an example.) But until it gets settled, fans will have to be content with re-watching their 007 DVDs or checking out new Bond books and video games.

John Griswold’s 007 collection up for auction

Back in July, we wrote about John Griswold’s 2006 book that analyzed Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and short stories was still available. Next month, Griswold’s James Bond collection is being auctioned by Winter Associates of Plainville, Connecticut.

Among the items:
A first edition hardback of Casino Royale, the debut Bond novel as well as other first-edition Fleming novels.
Robert McGinnis artwork for Bond movie posters.
A proposed McGinnis poster for Diamonds Are Forever that wasn’t used for the film’s publicity.
Original artwork for a 1981 Marvel Comics adaptation of For Your Eyes Only.
Mort Drucker artwork for a 1974 Mad parody of the first eight 007 movies.
–A 2002 Drucker drawing of Ian Fleming.

Why is the collection being sold now? Here’s an excerpt from a letter by Debbie Griswold, John’s wife, that’s part of the auction materials:

Thus, it is with sadness and nostalgia that I report that John’s health has declined significantly in the past two years. Early-onset Alzheimer’s has taken its toll on John, and he is no longer researching or collecting. As we move into the next chapter of our life, we must leave behind John’s collection. My hope is that John’s research materials and these items from the fascinating worlds of Ian Fleming and James Bond will bring the next owner/collector the same enjoyment and satisfaction that they brought to John – that they will forever be treasured as diamonds as they were by their loyal fan and collector John Griswold.

There’s far more than we can list and link to here so YOU CAN CLICK RIGHT HERE to see the items that are up for sale.

MGM watch: It ain’t over till it’s over

The fate of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., which controls half of the 007 franchise, remains unsettled as one Indian company and a well known corporate investor figuratively kick the tires.

First, from a Sept. 19 Bloomberg.com story about Sahara India Pariwar:

Sahara India Pariwar is in discussions on “mutual interest” with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., a spokesman for the Indian company said in response to reports that it had bid for the studio’s debt.

“It’s too early to comment on the issue,” Abhijit Sarkar, head of corporate communications at Sahara India Pariwar, said in an e-mailed statement today. He didn’t give details.

You can read the full story BY CLICKING HERE. Two days earlier, the Associated Press had a story a version of which YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING THIS LINK. The story began like this:

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Sahara India Pariwar, an Indian conglomerate with real estate and media holdings, says it has made a $2 billion bid to buy the debt of struggling Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

It was unclear how MGM’s committee of creditors views the offer. A spokeswoman for the studio declined to comment.

All of this comes when Spyglass Entertainment has been reported by various media outlets as having a tenative to take control of MGM THAT WOULD INVOLVE MGM MAKING A “PREPACKED” BANKRUPTCY FILING. So far, there has been no official announcement from MGM, other than a Sept. 15 statement that the studio got another extension on making debt payments.

But that’s not the only potential complication. On Sept. 17, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES REPORTED THAT INVESTOR CARL ICAHN WAS BUYING UP MGM DEBT.

Here’s an excerpt:

Icahn previously accumulated and then sold debt in MGM earlier this year. In the past few weeks he has acquired what one person close to the situation described as a single-digit percentage in the studio’s nearly $4 billion worth of debt.

There’s no indication that Icahn wants to play a role in MGM if the company goes ahead with current plans for the top executives of Spyglass Entertainment to take over following a pre-packaged bankruptcy. The investor may just believe he can make a profit given the current trading price of the company’s bonds.

We don’t know precisely what all this means other than MGM’s fate, along with that of the cinematic James Bond, isn’t settled. Don’t make plans for attending the premier of Bond 23 yet.

MGM watch: studio gets another debt extension, Reuters says

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. said today in an e-mailed press release it got another extension for repaying its debt, this one lasting until Oct. 29. Here’s the start of a STORY BY REUTERS that reported the news:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer [MGMYR.UL] said on Wednesday that its lenders agreed to extend a deadline for debt payments as the film studio prepares to be handed over to film company Spyglass Entertainment.

A source familar with the matter said last week that the founders of Spyglass signed a nonbinding letter of intent to take over MGM, which is struggling with about $4 billion of debt after being bought out in 2005.

Nothing new about the possible Spyglass deal in today’s announcement, much less whether (as fans hope), it will get Bond 23 out of its current state of limbo.

UPDATE: Nikki Finke weighs in on her Deadline site which YOU CAN VIEW BY CLICKING HERE. She sounds as tired of these debt extensions as most Bond fans.

MGM watch: creditors may be asked to vote on debt restructuring, bankruptcy: Bloomberg

Creditors of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., which controls half of the 007 franchise, are going to be asked to approve some major movies, according to a Sept. 10 Bloomberg.com story by Ronald Grover and Michael White. Highlights:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. creditors will be asked to approve a restructuring and pre-packaged bankruptcy plan for the studio within the next week or two, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

Under the plan, MGM would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after obtaining creditor approval, with the goal of emerging from court protection by the end of the year, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the details aren’t public. Susie Arons, an MGM spokeswoman, declined to comment.

All of this is tied in with a plan where the top management of Spyglass Entertainment would take over control of MGM. If you want to read the entire Bloomberg story, here’s a SECOND LINK YOU CAN CLICK ON.

If the Bloomberg story is correct — and IF the plan actually gets executed as described — that suggests the *earliest* Bond 23 development can resume is sometime in early 2011. Presumably, the new MGM regime would want to get to know Eon Productions bosses Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. Also, the new MGM leadership would have to establish which studio would actually release Bond 23 once its made. Finally, there’s also the work schedules of actor Daniel Craig and would-be Bond 23 director Sam Mendes to consider.

Again, that’s just our reading of the tea leaves. It’s our guess the earliest Bond 23 would be released is 2012, but we stress that’s only a guess.

Lazenby doesn’t care about Bond 23 woes, details sexual conquests, Reuters says

George Lazenby attended a screen of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in Los Angeles and took questions from fans this week. One of them concerned how Bond 23 is in limbo because of financial troubles at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. Reuters, the news service that once employed Ian Fleming, chronicled what happened next:

But when he was asked during a Q&A for his thoughts on the future of the Bond franchise, he was decidedly blunt.

“Y’know, I couldn’t give a s***,” he said, to much laughter during an exchange that following a screening of the film.

He also talked about what got him the role, making him the first film actor after Sean Connery to play 007.

“Too bad I couldn’t act, but it was fun,” Lazenby said, explaining that his arrogance and sure way with women helped get him the coveted role previously held by Sean Connery.

Asked about his sexual conquests during his glory days, the former model said, “I don’t want to brag too much, but at least one a day.”

Lazenby said co-star Diana Rigg wasn’t one of them.

He described her as “a tough nut,” who warned him against sleeping with so many women on the set. A chill set in once she caught him rolling about with a hotel receptionist on a mattress used by stuntmen, he recalled.

You can read the entire story BY CLICKING HERE.