Saturday, June 22, 2024

No Deal: Shari Redstone Ends Talks On Skydance Offer for Paramount Global

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No deal. Shari Redstone has ended talks on the latest offer for Paramount Global from the consortium led by Skydance and RedBird Capital, placing the future of the entertainment company into a fresh period of uncertainty, a source confirms to The Hollywood Reporter.

A spokesperson for the Redstone-run National Amusements, which controls Paramount, stated that the company “announced that they have not been able to reach mutually acceptable terms regarding the potential transaction with Skydance Media for the acquisition of a controlling stake in NAI.”

The statement added that, “NAI supports the recently announced strategic plan being executed by Paramount’s Office of the CEO as well as their ongoing work and that of the Company’s Board of Directors to continue to explore opportunities to drive value creation for all Paramount shareholders.”

Paramount Global’s special committee of the board of directors also weighed in and noted that it “did not vote on any potential transaction” on Tuesday.

“The Special Committee met on Tuesday to discuss progress of discussions regarding a potential transaction with Skydance Media. At that time, the Special Committee was informed by a representative of National Amusements, Inc. that it did not have an agreement on a deal with Skydance Media and didn’t anticipate a path forward on this transaction. The Special Committee did not vote on any potential transaction,” the committee stated.

Redstone is now looking to sell NAI alone to another potential suitor, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. But the Skydance team — which submitted its best and final offer in April — has long been betting that other suitors will eventually drop out.

Skydance had secured approval from Paramount’s independent board committee, in a sweetened deal that would see Paramount’s non-voting shareholders have the option to cash out at $15 per share. It would also have seen Skydance acquire Redstone’s National Amusements for about $2 billion.

National Amusements is a regional movie theater chain, however Sumner Redstone turned it into a media behemoth by acquiring Viacom, Paramount and CBS. National Amusements only owns about 10 percent of Paramount’s equity, but it controls about 80 percent of its voting stock, giving it control of the entertainment firm.

Shari Redstone has run the company since her father’s death in 2020.

Paramount’s future has been the focus of intense speculation in recent months, with its streaming business still hemorrhaging cash, its linear TV business in continued decline, and with its credit rating on the ropes.

In addition to Skydance, Apollo and Sony have kicked the tires of the company, which ousted its CEO Bob Bakish in April, replacing him with a trio of executives in the “office of the CEO.”

Those three executives, Brian Robbins, George Cheeks and Chris McCarthy outlined their own “shared vision” for the company. That would include further cost cutting, the divestment of non-core assets (perhaps BET?) and seeking potential partners in streaming.

National Amusements, too, has faced challenges. The company took a $125 million strategic investment in May from BDT & MSD Partners, with the proceeds paying down debt and paying back loans.

S&P Global downgraded Paramount’s debt to BB+ in March, which is considered “junk” status.

“We downgraded Paramount due to the degradation of credit metrics from the accelerating declines in linear media and the shift toward a more competitive and less certain streaming model,” S&P’s Naveen Sarma wrote.

He added in a note after Bakish departed that the “shared management structure is not sustainable for Paramount Global, or for any publicly traded company, outside of a short transitional period.”

With the Skydance deal dead, it seems increasingly likely that it will lean into its leadership for now, unless and until a better deal is able to cross the finish line.

On Monday, the company revealed that the three co-CEOs would be eligible for enhanced severance if the company is ultimately sold.

Kim Masters contributed reporting.

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