Sony Corp. acquires MGM Studios for $5 billion

MUMBAI: It has been a long-running drama and it is Japanese electronics giant Sony Corp that has come out the winner at the end of it. Sony has reached an in-principle agreement to buy out the last of Hollywood's independent film majors Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (MGM) in a $ 4.9 billion cash and debt deal.

Also coming along with MGM as part of the purchase deal is its subsidiary United Artists, the studio founded in 1919 by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and DW Griffith. MGM bought UA in 1981 and has used the brand in recent years as a boutique studio, releasing low-budget, independent films.

With this, Sony hopes to have an overriding position in the competition for film sales and standards for next-generation DVDs. MGM, which is an 80-year-old studio, said that the unit of Japanese electronics giant Sony Corp. would be joined by Providence Equity Partners Inc., Texas Pacific Group and DLJ Merchant Banking Partners, according to a media report.

Time Warner, which was also in the race for MGM, lost out to Sony as it formed an association with the two US investment companies and raised the purchase price. Sony will now be looking at maximizing its opportunities and hopes to create the world's largest film library of about 7,600 titles, comprising 3,500 movies from Sony and about 4,100 from MGM, said a media report.

MGM owns the James Bond movie franchise and hence after this takeover, Sony will acquire the rights to all "007" films. The company will pay $12 cash per share for MGM, which is controlled by billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian. The sale would mark the third time Kerkorian, who owns 74 per cent of MGM's outstanding shares, has sold MGM.

The tab to Sony is about $ 2.94 billion as sale price and around 1.9 billion dollars in debt.

In addition, Sony and its partners in the deal put down a $ 150-million deposit, which is reportedly non-refundable, clinching five months of intense and secret negotiations.

The procuring of MGM was in tandem with the company CEO Nobuyuki Idei's vision of creating synergies between Sony's consumer electronics products and music, movies and games.

A few estimates that are doing rounds in the international media reveal that after this deal, the Sony group will control about 40 per cent of all movies ever produced by Hollywood.


Sony also announced that it has reached a distribution deal with Comcast, the largest cable TV provider in the US, that would allow video on demand and new cable channels featuring Sony and MGM content.

Another agreement that the two reached was that Comcast would lead a new joint venture with Sony that would use its films to create numerous movie-based channels.

Some media reports say that this deal would reduce Hollywood's antipathy toward cable, and may persuade subscribers to buy additional programming services. This is the first major VOD deal between a cable operator and a Hollywood studio.

Media reports say that Comcast is looking at investing approximately $300 million in return for equity in the company that would be created to own and manage the MGM acquisition.

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