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MGM Holdings, whose storied studio boasts one of the largest Hollywood film and TV libraries — including the iconic James Bond franchise — is in negotiations to be acquired by Amazon, according to a May 24 Wall Street Journal report citing unnamed sources. The newspaper says a deal figure could be “almost $9 billion,” and talks are advanced enough that a deal could be unveiled “as early as this week.”
It has long been rumored that the tech giant was a top suitor for the studio, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2010. (Apple had also been seen as a potential buyer, and sources tell THR that NBCUniversal was also in the mix.) MGM’s top shareholder is Anchorage Capital, run by former Goldman Sachs exec Kevin Ulrich, who leads the studio’s board of directors and is said to be spearheading the deal. In December 2020, it was reported that MGM had enlisted Morgan Stanley and LionTree LLC to advise on a sale.
The studio has not installed a CEO since Gary Barber was ousted from the post in 2018 at the behest of Ulrich. Instead, the studio’s TV arm is overseen by reality television mogul Mark Burnett, while Michael De Luca was installed in January 2020 to head feature film.
If a deal closes, Amazon would have access to MGM’s massive library — comprising over 4,000 titles and 17,000 hours of television — for its Prime Video streaming service. The century-old feature library includes the Rocky and Hobbit franchises; television titles include Fargo and The Handmaid’s Tale along with unscripted offerings Survivor and Shark Tank.
Amazon would also control what is seen as the industry’s most lucrative yet-to-be tapped brand: James Bond. Sony’s distribution deal expired after 2015’s Spectre, which kicked off a courting process that saw Sony, Universal, Warner Bros. and Fox (pre-Disney merger) — as well as then-upstart Amazon and a fledgling Apple — vying for the property. Ultimately, the distribution plan was set with MGM, under joint venture United Artists Releasing, handling domestic, and Universal taking international.
But, during the pandemic, the studio explored a licensing deal for the latest 007 movie, No Time to Die, which has been delayed several times from its April 2020 release. Netflix and Apple crunched the numbers on a possible deal, but ultimately MGM pushed the film for a third time to an October 2021 release. It is currently unclear if the potential purchase by Amazon will affect that film’s current distribution plan.
As for Amazon, this would be the biggest move to date for the tech giant’s continued push into entertainment, which already includes a television and film studio, with a sizable slate, and its streaming service. At the 2021 Oscars ceremony, Amazon earned 12 nominations. In its first-quarter 2021 earnings report, Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos said that “over 175 million Prime members” have streamed television shows and movies in the past year, up more than 70 percent year-over-year.
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