Bond 25 questions: The future of MGM edition

No Time to Die poster from spring 2020

It turns out No Time to Die is not just a James Bond movie. It’s also a bargaining chip concerning the future of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What’s going on?

MGM is owned by hedge funds. They acquired the studio when it was in bankruptcy in 2010. Hedge funds typically acquire assets and sell (or “flip”) them a few years later at a profit.

MGM’s hedge fund owners have held onto to the studio for a full decade. That’s longer than is typical of hedge funds.

There have been attempts at selling the studio. MGM spent part of 2016 trying to sell itself to a Chinese buyer, according to news reports in early 2017. CEO Gary Barber was in early “unsanctioned” talks to sell MGM to Apple in 2018. That spurred MGM’s board to fire him, The Wall Street Journal said in part of a story about MGM on Oct. 11.

No Time to Die, a $250 million production, was supposed to generate $1 billion in global box office pre COVID-19. That could boost an MGM sales price. But various delays, including two COVID-related ones, have complicated that rosy scenario.

Why should Bond fans care?

The Bond franchise has felt the impact of shaky MGM ownership ever since MGM acquired United Artists in 1981. At times, Eon Production was under the gun to get movies out fast or hold costs down. The whole 1989-1995 hiatus was the direct result of a financial mess at MGM.

Any push by MGM to sell now would be amid the growth in streaming services. Possible buyers may include Apple and Amazon.com, two tech companies active in streaming.

What happens now?

As once said in Diamonds Are Forever, people are playing Monopoly with real buildings, or at least movie and TV studios.

This week’s Wall Street Journal story depicts Anchorage Capital Group, the largest single MGM hedge fund owner, as under pressure to do a deal.

In one passage, the story indicates that Anchorage views the still-unreleased No Time to Die as something that could boost a sales price. A buyer could assume control of No Time to Die’s distribution.

There is a complication, according to the Journal. Comcast Corp.’s Universal is set to distribute No Time to Die internationally. If someone other than Comcast buys MGM, Comcast may need to be compensation.

But I just want my Bond movie! Why do I to follow this other stuff?

Life is complicated sometimes.

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