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Viacom is said to emerge as front-runner for Miramax stake

Viacom is said to emerge as front-runner for Miramax stake
Business
Viacom Inc., the media company that’s combining with CBS Corp., has emerged as the front-runner to buy a stake in Miramax films, which owns award-winning pictures such as Pulp Fiction, people familiar with the matter said.

Another bidder, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., has dropped out of the process to focus on its core business, though it’s possible the company could come back, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Talks are ongoing and there’s no guarantee a deal will be reached. The parties have discussed a price in the nine-figure range, or at least $100 million (U.S.), the people said.

A deal would give Viacom a stake in more than 700 titles, including four best-picture Oscar winners, and an interest in future productions, such as Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen, with Matthew McConaughey. Viacom is the parent of MTV and Comedy Central, along with the Paramount Pictures film and TV studio. BeIN Media Group, the Qatar-based owner of Miramax, began seeking investors earlier this year.

The owners are looking to capitalize on soaring demand for film and TV assets, driven by new streaming services from companies like Walt Disney Co., NBCUniversal, Apple Inc. and AT&T Inc. Viacom and CBS, both controlled by the Redstone family, are merging to gain clout in this environment. Spyglass Media Group, the company formed through the acquisition of Weinstein Co. assets, dropped out of the process earlier.

Viacom shares fell 1.5 per cent to $26.15 in late trading in New York, while Lions Gate rose 6 per cent to $11.67.

Deal hunt

A spokesman for BeIN declined to comment.

The combined Viacom and CBS has been expected to seek other deals that bolster its portfolio. In March, New York-based Viacom acquired Pluto TV, an internet-based TV programmer, for $340 million.

“While there is concern that ViacomCBS would be an aggressive buyer, in our discussions, we came away with a strong belief that the company would be ‘opportunistic’ and ‘disciplined,’” analysts at MoffettNathanson LLC said in a note this month.

Lions Gate, meanwhile, has been trying to raise capital for the international expansion of its Starz premium cable network.

Miramax was acquired by BeIN from Colony Capital in 2016 and is pursuing a revival under chief executive officer Bill Block, the founder of Artisan Entertainment. Last year, the company co-produced a remake of Halloween to revive and extend the popular horror film series. But the library remains the key prize.

Colony and other investors acquired Miramax in 2010 for $660 million. The independent studio was founded in 1979 by Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who sold it to Walt Disney in 1993. The brothers went on to found the Weinstein Co. in 2005, which went into bankruptcy last year after revelations of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein.
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