1. Time Warner now lone MGM bidder

    By Devin Zydel on 2010-05-09

    Variety – Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries has dropped out of the bidding for beleaguered MGM, leaving only Time Warner Inc. as a potential buyer.

    Reps for MGM and Access had no comment but a source close to the situation indicated Friday that Access has withdrawn its offer after a deadline passed to accept the bid.

    For Blavatnik, buying MGM would have established him as a certified showbiz player, but one who would have probably sold off the rights to James Bond and the Hobbit. MGM put itself up for sale in November, drawing a trio of binding offers in mid-March. Lionsgate bailed out of the bidding a week later.

    The Time Warner and Access offers for MGM were believed to be in the $1.5 billion range, far below the $2 billion threshold price sought by MGM and its debtholders.

    MGM’s last announcement came on March 31 when it received 1 1/2 months of relief from payments on its debt, with its lenders agreeing to skip receiving payments until May 14—the fourth time since September that lenders to MGM have made such an agreement, aimed at giving CEO Stephen Cooper enough time to restructure the storied studio.

    MGM hasn’t commented since then but a knowledgeable source indicated Friday that the studio will probably seek another extension on the forebearance period on debt payments to support the studio’s ongoing efforts to improve its financial position.

    EON Prods. toppers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli jointly announced last month that they’ve put plans on hold for the next James Bond pic due to the “continuing uncertainty surrounding the future of MGM and the failure to close a sale of the studio.”

    MGM’s prospects received some positive news on Wednesday when Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said an acquisition of MGM “could make good sense” at the right price. Bewkes made the announcement during a conference call to discuss first-quarter earnings.

    MGM carries debts of $3.7 billion. MGM’s assets include its name and logo, the United Artists operations, a library with more than 4,000 titles, the James Bond franchise, half of The Hobbit franchise and a barebones film and TV operation.

    MGM’s lone release this year, Hot Tub Time Machine, has grossed $47 million after six weekends.

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