Is this how the long struggle ends for MGM?

by Paul William Tenny

MGM logo

The few stories I seem to be writing lately always seem to be about MGM. But that's ok, that'll change here in the next few weeks. And things surely look to be changing for MGM.

Put simply, for the longest time it looked like MGM wasn't going to find a buyer. It was going to have to file for bankruptcy and probably liquidate its assets to repay its creditors. The video library would be the first to go and fetch raise the most money, and then the rights to big franchises like James Bond would go next, on and on until there was nothing left.

Lately it looked like MGM's debtors were searching for another studio to merge with that would take over MGM operations without buying them or dealing with the debt. Under that scheme, MGM's debt holders would convert their debt into equity and the current owners would be left with nothing. Rather than selling MGM to someone like Time Warner so that the debt holders would get some of their money back, those creditors will effectively lose those loans permanently, but also end up owning the studio outright in trade.

On a smaller scale, let's say I own a company and ask you for a $1,000 loan. But then I can't pay it back, and the company is now only worth about $250. You could convert that $1,000 into shares of the company and have so many shares that you de facto own it, and I'm out of the picture. That looks to be what MGM's creditors are going to do, and the studio will still have go through bankruptcy to make that happen. You can't convert debt to equity just out of the blue as far as I know.

Once that happens, the new debtor/owners will again shell out half a billion in credit to MGM (to themselves, really) along with outside credit to continue making movies and TV shows (starting this completely sane and reasonable process all over again), and Spyglass Entertainment will step in to run the mostly debt-free studio. Other studios in the running for that job were Summit Entertainment (Twilight) and Lionsgate.

MGM's creditors didn't want this to happen. They didn't want to run MGM and wouldn't know how even if they did, which is why they need Spyglass. These are Wall Street hedge funds, investment firms, and money people. They'd do a worse job running MGM themselves than the people who bankrupted MGM in the first place, and luckily they know that.

If what I just described above actually happens, then that's good news for fans of MGM's franchise property. I don't know when, but eventually the pending Stargate films would go ahead because they have proven profitable thus far. Bond may or may not come back right away. The last two films made a lot of money but had obscenely large budgets that weren't really justified and probably contributed to MGM's financial problems.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

in Business, News


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