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On a fourth quarter earnings call with analysts on Wednesday, Starz chief executive Chris Albrecht danced around talk of a merger with Lionsgate.
Two weeks ago, a stock swap was executed that resulted in Lionsgate taking a stake in Starz and adding John Malone to its board of directors. Given that the announcement followed rampant speculation that Starz was looking to sell itself to a bigger company, some analysts saw it as a “precursor” to a hookup between the cable company and indie studio.
Speaking with analysts eager to hear specifics on the new relationship, Albrecht tried a metaphor.
“This takes two companies that are good working partners from friends to cousins — maybe kissing cousins,” he said.
Albrecht praised Malone as bringing a lot of energy and spoke broadly of the benefits of working more closely with a content producer, but wouldn’t get too specific about what the collaboration would mean beyond a mutual search for opportunities.
One analyst demanded Albrecht speak directly of a possible merger — calling it the “elephant in the room.”
Albrecht asked whether Lionsgate or Malone was that elephant.
The analyst answered both.
Albrecht doesn’t seem ready to downplay the merger talk.
“It is certainly possible that combining our efforts will achieve a better result than what we can do separately,” he said. “It’s hard to predict the way things go. But there is a new spirit when we talk to those guys.”
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