Saturday, June 15, 2024

Edgar Bronfman eyes $2 billion-plus bid for company that controls Paramount

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Former media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr., backed by private-equity firm Bain Capital, has expressed interest in buying the company that controls Paramount Global, marking yet another twist in one of the messiest deal dramas in recent memory.

Bronfman, who formerly ran Warner Music and liquor giant Seagram, is looking to offer between $2 billion and $2.5 billion for National Amusements, the privately held movie-theater company through which Shari Redstone controls Paramount Global, according to people familiar with the situation.

Bronfman’s interest comes as Redstone is in advanced negotiations to sell a majority stake of National Amusements to Skydance Media. Paramount, which owns the iconic movie studio, broadcaster CBS and cable networks including Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV, would then merge with Skydance, a production company run by David Ellison.

Meanwhile, Hollywood producer Steven Paul has been lining up financing to make an offer for National Amusements of around $3 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported.

It is unclear how seriously the Redstone family will entertain other offers for National Amusements while negotiations with Skydance continue, and whether other potential bidders can arrange the necessary financing.

A sale of NAI would mean that Paramount would have a new controlling shareholder, while the Skydance deal, as it is being discussed now, would give non-Redstone Paramount shareholders the opportunity to cash out at a premium to where the stock is trading.

Under the terms of the deal with Skydance being discussed, Skydance and its backers, which include RedBird Capital Partners and Ellison’s father, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, will put $1.5 billion on Paramount’s balance sheet, which it can use to pay down debt.

The deal provides for another $4.5 billion to buy out about 50% of nonvoting shares at $15 each and offer non-Redstone voting shares $23 a piece, or roll into the new company.

Advisers for National Amusements, Paramount and Skydance were negotiating throughout the weekend on the final hurdles to a deal, including how to handle potential shareholder lawsuits, some of the people close to the situation said.

Some investors have been critical of how the Redstones and Paramount have navigated the sales process. National Amusements has a 77% voting stake in Paramount.

Bronfman and Bain would want to do due diligence on NAI and Paramount, which would take several weeks, before moving forward with a bid, said some of the people. Bain’s investment committee would also have to approve a formal bid.

Bronfman has held high-profile roles in the music industry since 1995, when he sought to diversify his family’s Seagram business into the world of media and entertainment. That year, he led Seagram in its acquisition of MCA, whose record division it renamed as Universal Music Group. Bronfman subsequently oversaw Universal’s acquisition of PolyGram to create the world’s largest recorded-music company.

The Bronfman family sold Seagram to French conglomerate Vivendi in 2000. Bronfman later resigned as executive vice chairman of Vivendi Universal in 2001. He returned to the music industry three years later, when he led an investor group that bought Warner Music from Time Warner.

In 2011, Bronfman stepped down as CEO of Warner Music after the business was bought by Access Industries, the firm controlled by billionaire Len Blavatnik. In 2016, he made multiple attempts to acquire Time Inc. that were subsequently rejected. Bronfman has served as the executive chairman of Fubo since April of 2020.

Laura Cooper contributed to this article.

Write to Lauren Thomas at lauren.thomas@wsj.com, Jessica Toonkel at jessica.toonkel@wsj.com and Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg at Jeffrey.Trachtenberg@wsj.com

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