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Lionsgate may not want any turbulence as it looks for a buyer, but an executive reshuffling is in the works, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Sources say Motion Picture Group co-president Erik Feig has been raising money to launch a new company focused on youth-oriented projects, while Motion Picture Group co-chairman Patrick Wachsberger also plans to leave within months. Lionsgate is likely to be a major investor in Feig’s company.
An executive with knowledge of the situation says Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer and vice chairman Michael Burns had hoped Feig would remain for another year, presumably to give them time to pursue a sale without any major changes at the company that could raise concerns for a prospective buyer.
Feig had championed such successes as La La Land, which grossed $446 million worldwide on a $30 million budget, and the Julia Roberts drama Wonder, which pulled in $265 million on a $20 million budget.
Lionsgate declined to comment. Neither Feig nor Wachsberger responded to requests for comment.
The planned departures come as Motion Picture Group co-chairman Joe Drake is seen as consolidating his control of the film studio. Drake had served as Lionsgate COO and Motion Pictures Group president before co-founding financing, production and sales company Good Universe in 2012. He returned to his executive role at Lionsgate in October.
Wachsberger, who joined Lionsgate when the company bought Summit Entertainment in 2012, is said to have wanted to leave last year but agreed then to a one-year extension. “Patrick never loved the corporate nature and culture” at Lionsgate, says a source with ties to the company.
With consolidation underway in the industry, Lionsgate may feel that selling is urgent and the iron is fairly hot. But the company’s stock recently dropped sharply after the company adjusted earnings.
Deal chatter grew loud on Jan. 24 when Burns said on CNBC that he’s “very interested” in consolidation, adding, “We’re a pint-sized bite for some of these giant market cap companies … so we would talk to anybody at any time and see if a deal makes sense.” One industry observed says those comments were “the equivalent of twirling a [for-sale] sign on a street corner.”
Since taking over the Vancouver- and Santa Monica-based company in 2000, Feltheimer has cobbled together a diversified film and TV studio, spending more than $5 billion on acquisitions: $4.4 billion for Starz, $413 million for Summit Entertainment, $220 million for Artisan, $50 million for Trimark and $27 million for Debmar-Mercury.
The studio made a recent play for The Weinstein Co. assets and has expressed interest in buying if the company decides that bankruptcy is the best course of action. Lionsgate is also shopping for a management and production company, possibly 3 Arts, which is seeking a deal.
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