Toronto 2011: Post-Carl Icahn Battle, Lionsgate Holds Drama-Free Shareholders Meeting
TORONTO – “It’s back to the good old days,” a beaming Jon Feltheimer declared Tuesday morning, following his bitter boardroom fight with Carl Icahn and before the Lionsgate CEO filed into the mini-major’s annual shareholders meeting in Toronto.
It was not the acrimonious and disruptive proxy contest it could have been, now that billionaire investor Icahn's unsuccessful bid to win control of Lionsgate is over.
The shareholders meeting got underway promptly at 10 a.m. at the Soho Metropolitan Hotel, with the Toronto International Film Festival in full flow in surrounding downtown hotels and cinemas.
With Feltheimer and Lionsgate vice-chairman Michael Burns seated at his side, co-chairman Harold Ludwig by 10:03 a.m. was hurriedly listing a dozen boardroom nominees up for re-election.
Feltheimer was staring off into the distance, and Burns checked his Blackberry, each possibly aware of the ghosts of an alternate slate Icahn might have put up Tuesday to unseat their own had the activist shareholder not last month cashed out of Lionsgate.
But on the day, a Lionsgate board of directors that willed so hard to prevail over Icahn was easily re-elected, and by 10:07 a.m. Feltheimer was setting aside his prepared remarks to speak off the cuff.
“I hope you’re enjoying our continental breakfast, and as I look at this room filled with our returning directors, I know our shareholders appreciate the dedication you’ve given us this last year,” the Lionsgate topper began.
Feltheimer also spared shareholders any big-picture strategy discussion that he usually reserves for the pep-talk segment of Lionsgate analyst calls.
Instead, the Lionsgate CEO spotlighted the Showtime dark comedy Weeds to illustrate his company’s cradle-to-grave approach to product exploitation.
“It (Weeds) tells a story about Lionsgate, and what sets us apart from every other independent, and what makes us so much more like all of the majors in terms of what we’ve invested in, and that’s the end-to-end solution for all of our entertainment product,” he told shareholders.
Feltheimer recalled how Lionsgate developed, financed and produced Weeds on its own, before selling the series to Showtime and elsewhere internationally.
Then the mini-major squeezed profits from the Showtime comedy on the home entertainment and digital platforms.
“Frankly, many companies are far behind us in exploiting digital,” he told the AGM.
And finally Weeds was syndicated on Lionsgate’s TV Guide Network.
“We took an idea and took it end-to-end and created a tremendous amount of value,” Feltheimer said.
“This is the value we’re creating for our shareholders, and a lot of the people in this room, both directors and executives, have dedicated themselves to building this value proposition,” he added.
And with that, Feltheimer, free and clear of Carl Icahn, brought to an end an un-dramatic AGM that lasted barely 12 minutes.