Lionsgate, Summit Re-Start Merger Talks

4:16 PM PST 11/28/2011 by Alex Ben Block
Summit Entertainment

The respective independent giants behind the "Twilight" and "Hunger Games" franchises are once again discussing joining forces.

Two of Hollywood’s biggest independent producer/distributors have resumed talks about a merger.

Summit Entertainment, currently riding a huge box office success with Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, and Lionsgate Entertainment, presently in production on the first of a series of movies based on the Hunger Games books, are once again discussing a merger, according to a THR source who confirmed the talks and a report that first appeared Monday on the Bloomberg News website.

Both companies declined to comment on the reported discussions.

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The two mini-majors have held merger talks several times in the past but they always broke off over issues of how much each was worth and who would end up in charge of the combined company.

While they are both among the strongest independent movie distributors who compete with major studios like NBC Universal, Warner Bros. and Disney, the two companies are quite different.

Summit, which is privately held, has been in the domestic distribution business since 2007, when former Warner Bros. and Paramount executive Rob Friedman joined the company, which he runs with Patrick Wachsberger, the veteran foreign sales executive who founded the company in 1993, and others.

Summit has had a mixed record with its movies except for the Twilight franchise, which produced more than $1 billion in box office sales even before the current release. Part 2 of Breaking Dawn is scheduled for release in November 2012.

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Summit closed a $750 million refinancing earlier this year that allowed the company to pay off high-interest debt and to pay a $200 million dividend to investors and management.

The biggest investor is Peak Group Holdings, which includes investments by Suhail Rizvi's Rizvi Traverse Management (which also owns a major stake in the ICM talent agency), Jeff Skoll's Participant Media, Emilio Diez Barroso's Nala Films and entities affiliated with the Omar Amanat family trust. Barroso is the great-grandson of Emilio Azcarraga, who founded Mexican TV network Televisa.

Lionsgate is a publicly traded company based in Vancouver, Canada with offices in Santa Monica, California. On Nov. 9, it reported revenue of $358.1 million and net loss of $24.6 million for the second quarter of fiscal 2012 (ended September 30).

While it is active in movies, including The Expendables and a series of Tyler Perry movies, it has also had considerable success in television. It current has 15 shows on the air including Mad Men, Weeds, Nurse Jackie and Boss, which recently launched on Starz. It is also a factor in TV syndication with such shows as Tyler Perry's House Of Payne and The Wendy Williams Show.

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Lionsgate also has a much larger film library than Summit, with about 13,000 movie and TV titles, which have helped it achieve about 8% of the domestic home entertainment market.

Since 2000, Jon Feltheimer has been Lionsgate’s Chief Executive Officer. He added the title of chairman in 2005. Michael Burns is vice chairman and Steve Beeks is president and co-coo with Joe Drake, who is also president of the motion picture group.

Lionsgate stock closed at $8.53 a share on Monday, up 1.55% from the prior day’s close.

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