The Business: Signed & Sealed
WHY CARL ICAHN BACKED MGM BANKRUPTCY
While most Americans spent Nov. 2 tracking the elections, lawyers trying to finalize terms of an MGM restructuring plan obsessed over the vote of just one man.
Carl Icahn, the combative billionaire investor, had promised to change his Oct. 29 “no” vote on a planned prepackaged bankruptcy if certain terms of the deal were tweaked. By election night, after five days of huddling among Icahn reps and MGM attorneys, he had won vital concessions and voted with other major debtholders to back a reorganization plan that was filed the next day in a New York court.
The relief in the room that night was palpable.
“It was getting to be like, ‘Come on, let’s just get this done,’ ” an insider says. “They weren’t panicked, but it was just dragging on.”
The plan names Spyglass Entertainment co-toppers Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum as MGM CEOs and chairmen, but it no longer includes the acquisition of Spyglass’ 15-movie library. Ever the grinder on price tags, Icahn had squawked about a reported $100 million valuation on the library, which includes The Sixth Sense, and demanded its removal.
He also sought a pair of seats on a nine-director MGM board but ended up with only one. The fabled studio’s biggest senior creditors are likely to get seats once they become MGM owners — the reorganization converts debt into equity stakes — and Icahn controls 15% of MGM’s $4 billion in debt.
Barber and Birnbaum also appear satisfied with the final terms despite the library sale rebuff. The duo won substantial private stock options in the deal, along with hefty base salaries.
“They're very happy, believe me,” a source suggests.
In the meantime, nobody expects Icahn to turn into a shrinking violet. He has promised to cool his jets during the next 30 days or so, as the MGM reorganization plan wends through bankruptcy court review. But after that, many believe he will press for a merger of MGM and Lionsgate. After all, Icahn is the film and TV mini-major’s biggest — and most litigious — shareholder.
Martin Sheen is in final negotiations to play Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben in Columbia’s Spider-Man reboot. Sheen (ICM) joins Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in the untitled pic from director Marc Webb. Sally Field (CAA, Hofflund Co.) is in talks to play Aunt May.
Financiers Jeff Sagansky and Jean-Luc De Fanti’s Winchester Capital Partners has set up a $250 million film fund. Dubbed Hemisphere Media Capital, the fund aims to spend $400 million to co-finance eight to 10 studio films in the next four years. Hemisphere’s first investment will be in a joint venture with Japanese film companies ToboTowa and Kadokawa Pictures.
Scarlett Johansson is in final negotiations to play the wife of Matt Damon’s character in Fox’s We Bought a Zoo for writer- director Cameron Crowe. Johansson (CAA, Rick Yorn, Morris Yorn) also became attached to star in the sci-fi film Under the Skin for Sexy Beast director Jonathan Glazer.
Filmmaker Jonathan Kasdan has set up The First Time at Castle Rock. Kasdan (UTA, Greenberg Glusker) wrote and will direct the teen romance, which centers on the first weekend in the blooming love between high school classmates.
Joel Edgerton will star opposite Jennifer Garner in The Odd Life of Timothy Green, a fable fantasy being directed by Dan in Real Life helmer Pete Hedges. Edgerton (CAA, Australia’s Shanahan Management) stars in the Aussie film Animal Kingdom and has Universal’s remake of The Thing in the can.
James McAvoy (UTA, the U.K.’s United Agents) and Hugh Laurie (WME, Ziffren Brittenham) have joined the voice cast of Arthur Christmas, a 3D, CG-animated family comedy from Aardman Animations. Sarah Smith and Barry Cook are co-directing the Sony Pictures Animation pic, which sports a release date of Nov. 23, 2011. Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton and Ashley Jensen also have signed onto the cast.
Dances With Wolves producer Jim Wilson will direct a biopic about Mine That Bird, a 50-to-1 long shot that won the 2009 Kentucky Derby. Elizabeth Gaylynn Baker will serve as writer and producer, and Kingsborough Pictures president Pieter Kroonenburg also will produce.
Relativity Media has bought the film rights to Michael Drosnin’s The Bible Code series. The studio will develop the three books — which warn of a coming Armageddon but also offer prescriptions for how to prevent it — into at least one film, which is slated for release in 2012.
Warner Bros. has set an April production start for Dark Shadows, an adaptation of the vampire TV soap to be directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp.
Peter Chernin's the Chernin Group is setting its sights on Asia, launching CA Media to build and manage media, entertainment and technology businesses throughout the region. Paul Aiello, who most recently served as the CEO of Star Group, the region's leading pay television broadcaster, will be CEO. Initial investors include Allen & Co., Brookside Capital (an affiliate of Bain), Gordon Crawford and Kimberly Querrey.
USA Network has given cast-contingent pilot orders to three new shows: Eden, Over/Under and Wild Card. Eden, from Universal Cable Prods., is about a young hotel worker who gets a job as the concierge at an elite New York hotel. Over/Under, from Fox TV Studios in association with UCP, is about a day-trader with a gambling problem who is fired after a bad trade. Wild Card, from Fox TV Studios, is a Las Vegas-set legal procedural.
TLC has ordered a series about surprise military homecomings. Hosted by Billy Ray Cyrus (CAA, Morey Management, Edelstein, Laird & Sobel), three hour-long episodes will be produced by Authentic Entertainment.
Fox has greenlighted Million Dollar Money Drop, a game show from Deal or No Deal producers Endemol. The setup: Two contestants are given $1 million in cash and must risk a portion of their money on each of seven quiz questions. After the quiz, the contestants get to keep any money they have left. Kevin Pollak (ICM, Luber Roklin Entertainment, Nelson Davis Wetzstein) will host.
Fox has picked up a comedy project from I Love You, Man writer-director John Hamburg (WME, Sloss Law Office). The untitled script is about a father and son who are both recently divorced becoming roommates. Chernin Entertainment is producing with 20th TV, with Ian Helfer writing and executive producing along with Hamburg, plus Chernin and Katherine Pope as executive producers.
Bravo reality favorite Bethenny Frankel (WME), All My Children actress Rebecca Budig (APA, Luber Roklin) and Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil are among ABC's Skating With the Stars cast. The show debuts Nov. 22.
A cooking competition show starring celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito (CAA, Linda Lisco Inc., Felker Toczek Gellman Suddleson) has landed a series order at Bravo. Rocco's Dinner Party has been in development at the network since May, from production company Notional.
ABC is teaming with Mark Burnett Prods. for the reality series Expedition Impossible, in which small teams solve problems while racing around the world.
Spike TV has ordered a new reality series titled Most Lethal, taking 12 soldiers from various special forces branches to face off in a variety of grueling challenges.
Marilyn Manson has signed a joint-venture partnership with London-based label Cooking Vinyl. The deal for Manson (Ciula Management) covers his forthcoming eighth studio album, with an option to release the ninth. Cooking Vinyl will handle worldwide distribution, marketing and promotion.
Harry Potter co-star Rupert Grint has signed with Gersh. … Jonathan Tucker, co-star of The Next Three Days, has signed with UTA. … Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs scribe Yoni Brenner has signed with WME. … ICM has signed actor-writer-comedian Kumail Nunjiani, who is shooting TBS/Sony TV’s Franklin and Bash.