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MGM’s Post-Bankruptcy Board Takes Shape

By | Friday November 26, 2010 @ 7:17pm PST

When MGM exits bankruptcy next month, its new-look board of directors will include a few more media veterans. Jason Hirschhorn, who was recently the co-president of MySpace, and former CBS Corp chief financial officer Frederic Reynolds will be part of the 9 person board, joining new MGM bosses Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum along with representatives of creditors that helped restructure the company. Two board spots have yet to be filled, and one of those will be chosen by Carl Icahn, who just unveiled his Lionsgate board and who has in recent months amassed 18% of MGM’s debt. The appointments of Hirschhorn and Reynolds tap into MGM’s attempt to leverage its extensive film library while managing its release slate, which will supposedly be around 7-8 films per year starting in 2012. Reynolds will bring his traditional media experience to the company, while Hirschhorn, prior to Facebook, was president of entertainment for Sling Media and chief digital officer for MTV Networks. December 2 is the day on which the bankruptcy court is expected to approve MGM’s reorganization plan.

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UPDATE: Carl Icahn Wants 2nd Hollywood VIP For His Lionsgate Board + MGM News

WEDNESDAY UPDATE, 12:30 PM: Here’s another potential Lionsgate board member whom Carl Icahn is wrangling — filmmaker Jay Firestone, a one-time vice chairman of Alliance Communications in Canada. According to insiders, it makes sense for Icahn to want an executive from Up North since Lionsgate is based there and in Santa Monica. Also, the two men have movie history together: Fireworks Entertainment, which Firestone started when he left Alliance in 1995, was partnered in IDP Distribution along with Samuel Goldwyn Films and Icahn’s film company Stratosphere Entertainment. Sources tell me Fireworks burned through $100 million in financing from parent company CanWest Global Communications, which in 2003 didn’t renew founding president and CEO Firestone’s 5-year contract. Fireworks initially specialized in genre TV production, then expanded into feature film production and distribution when it was acquired by CanWest, opening offices in LA and London. But it had little success: 1999′s Onegin, 2000′s Rules Of Engagement, 2001′s Rat Race, and 2002′s Who Is Cletis Tout. Fireworks was shuttered by CanWest in April 2004. Firestone now runs Prodigy Pictures.

TUESDAY UPDATE, 1 PM: Carl Icahn right now is assembling his slate of board members hoping to unseat Lionsgate’s current board of directors at the film/TV studio’s scheduled December 14th shareholders meeting in Los Angeles. And I hear that Chris McGurk, the former MGM President and COO and Vice Chairman and Overture CEO, may join Icahn’s proposed slate because of his MGM experience now that Icahn and Lionsgate want that company, too. One of my Lionsgate insiders claims McGurk is lobbying for the board seat. But others tell me Icahn called McGurk out of the blue on Monday morning and offered it to him. Icahn won’t be packing the board with Hollywood types, however: instead, sources tell me he’s going after “people from other industries who are above approach from the SEC” since the crux of his problems with Lionsgate are the board’s alleged SEC violations. As for McGurk, he’ll have to see whether joining the Lionsgate board presents any conflicts of interest now that he’s figuring out his next movie. “He’s playing hard to get, if anything,” an insider tells me.

Usually, a proxy fight like the one Icahn has pledged to wage against Lionsgate is a very expensive proposition that takes months of preparation and involves contacting every shareholder. But this is being done with virtually no time and little expense. Just today, Icahn, who owns 33% of Lionsgate, extended his $7.50-per-share tender offer to December 2nd.

That’s the same day that MGM is supposed to receive confirmation of its pre-packaged bankruptcy plan. Icahn owns 15%-18% of MGM’s debt. There continue to be reports of an Indian company, and a Chinese company sniffing around, as well as Lionsgate, who may make another play for MGM. I’m told by a source that Lionsgate’s merger proposal is “gaining a lot of steam with many of the hedge funds in the credit. Not sure where the Big Four stand (Highland, Anchorage, Davidson Kempner, and Solis) but for many of the hedge funds, a merger with LGF gives them a liquidity option.” Meaning the MGM creditors will own a public stock that they can sell whenever they want to — a big plus. But ”$500 mil plus 55/45 won’t get it done. They will probably have to raise the offer to 60/40 and demonstrate that the merged entity is viable.”

As for McGurk, he most recently was CEO of Anchor Bay Entertainment. McGurk was with MGM from 1999 to 2005 and was responsible for all operating and planning activities for the Motion Picture Group, as well as all international operations, worldwide home entertainment, exhibition (UCI and Loew’s Cineplex), October Films and Polygram Filmed Entertainment. According to his official bio, McGurk “played the leading role in MGM’s reinvigoration, spearheading efforts that resulted MGM’s industry leadership in Home Entertainment library sales, marketing and distribution. Mr. McGurk maximized the asset value of Hollywood’s largest modern film library, transformed the Hollywood’s largest modern film library’s United Artist’s label into a specialty film unit and negotiated strategic alliances with Twentieth Century Fox and NBC.”

So let’s look at the last 6 months regarding Icahn and Lionsgate and MGM:

After the failed auction sale, MGM creditors explored every avenue. Lionsgate was talking to them about a merger since June, trying to get real financials as well as a governance plan. (Later press reports saying MGM creditors had rejected Lionsgate’s proposal were not accurate.) Icahn, in the midst of his Lionsgate battle, opposed the idea and publicly likened Lionsgate’s desire to merge with MGM to overstretched homebuyers. “It’s analogous to a couple not being able to pay their mortgage on a little house and starting to negotiate on a big, overpriced mansion that’s rumored to be haunted.” By June 21st, the MGM Steering Committee’s support of the Spyglass plan was leaked. The hedge fund guys with big MGM debt also like the fact that Spyglass’ Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum have figured out how to operate successfully with its money from Cerebrus. (Others think it was a disaster) No matter: that money is due to run out which is why Spyglass wants to run MGM.  Read More »

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Carl Icahn Extending Lionsgate Offer

His $7.50-per-share offer had been set to expire Monday but has been extended to December 2. Icahn is the biggest shareholder in Lionsgate, at 33%. The offer expires on the same day that MGM is supposed to receive confirmation of its bankruptcy plan – Icahn owns 18% of MGM’s debt. Icahn has repeatedly criticized Lionsgate for costs and said he plans to launch a fight for control of the company’s board. Lionsgate’s annual meeting is set for Dec. 14.

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Carl Icahn Extends Lionsgate Share Offer

Mike Fleming

Though Carl Icahn’s attempt to take control of Lionsgate was dealt a setback recently by a Supreme Court judge in British Columbia who dismissed Icahn’s lawsuit to stop a Lionsgate de-leveraging move that pushed his 38% stake down to 33.5%, Icahn is still trying. He’s extended his $7.50 per share offer, which had already been extended to November 12. All this is going on as MGM announced that it is speeding toward approval of its prepackaged bankruptcy, with Spyglass partners Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber at the helm. Icahn, a significant holder of MGM debt, is in the middle of that, too, and there’s every indication there might be an alignment of Lionsgate and MGM, with Icahn playing a role. Here’s the announcement Icahn just made:

NEW YORK, Nov. 12, 2010– Carl C. Icahn announced today that the offer by his affiliated entities to purchase up to all of the outstanding common shares of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. for $7.50 per share in cash has been extended and will now expire at 11:59 p.m., Vancouver time, on November 22, 2010, unless further extended or withdrawn.

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