Lionsgate humors Icahn

Vice chair Burns open to partner for TV Guide Network

NEW YORK -- Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns discussed the recently increased stake of activist shareholder Carl Icahn in his company with some humor on Wednesday.

"He is always friendly -- until he is not," Burns quipped in a morning presentation here at the 5th annual Jefferies & Co. Internet & Media Conference.

On a serious note, he said he spent some time with Icahn in recent days, and management has an ongoing dialogue with the former corporate raider.

"His goals are simple: he wants to make some money," Burns said.

"He saw a (recent) crappy quarter as an opportunity (to boost his stake to 14%)...He wants to see a return on investment."

Burns said Icahn has also mentioned his interest in getting a board seat or two, but the Lionsgate executive wouldn't commit to board representation for Icahn. "We'll see how this turns out," he said.

Discussing the film business, Burns said he is comfortable with the firm's film financing right now despite some recent questions from investors.

"The concern about us not having money for our movies is horse shit," he said. "We have way more money than we need to make our movies."

The Lionsgate vice chair also said he "wouldn't be shocked" if Lionsgate got a financial or strategic partner for TV Guide Network.

A partner would have to help the firm boost CPMs, which he put at $2, and carriage fees, which he put at "about 2 cents." Overall, "we feel we can do better than that,” he said.
Burns also discussed premium TV service Epix, a joint venture with Viacom and MGM. While observers have repeatedly raised doubts that the service's ability to get carriage, he said he expects "first significant carriage deals" as early as this spring ahead of the planned October launch.

Also at the Jefferies conference, Marvel Entertainment vice chairman Peter Cuneo showed clips touting the creative work and talent behind "Iron Man 2" and "Thor," which both are scheduled to hit theaters in the summer 2010. Filming for "Iron Man 2" starts in about six weeks, he said.
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