Anil Ambani eyes lion's share in MGM

MUMBAI: Reliance Entertainment is planning to bid for the debt ridden Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), a move that would take the Reliance ADAG company to the centre of Hollywood.

Reliance Entertainment, which already has a joint venture partnership with Spielberg‘s DreamWorks for production of movies, is among the 12 companies that have signed MGM‘s confidentiality agreements to make bid offers.

The others in the roster include News Corp, Time Warner, Liberty Media, AT&T Inc, Lions Gate and independent studio Summit Entertainment, apart from some private equity firms who are also in the fray to put in a bid for the legendry studio.

A Reliance spokesperson, however, refused to comment. "We do not comment on speculation," the spokesperson said.

Entertainment-focused investment firm Qualia Capital has made a proposal to restructure MGM, which would involve converting some of its debt to equity and put in enough money to keep it running. 

Private equity firms also signed non-disclosure agreements, it is understood. Those firms could be allowed to team with media companies and make joint bids for the studio in later rounds.

MGM skipped an interest payment last year on its $3.7bn in debt when it failed to raise the capital required to support an ambitious production schedule. Its lenders have granted it forbearance from interest payments until the end of this month.

The studio amassed much of this debt when it was taken over in a leveraged buy-out in 2005 by private equity firms TPG, Providence Equity Partners, DLJ Merchant Banking Partners and Quadrangle Group and media companies Sony and Comcast.

The first-round bids are non-binding which means that bidders are not legally bound to follow up on their offer and are expected to help MGM assess the level of interest among potential buyers.

First-round offers are expected to come in between $1.5 to $2 billion, well below the $3.7 billion debt that the studio owes.

If the bids come in too low, MGM‘s creditors could decide to keep the company and restructure it, possibly filing for a pre-packaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

MGM boasts of a library with 4,000 titles, including classics such as the Pink Panther and James Bond movies and more recent ones such as Legally Blonde.

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