It's been more than a year, and still, no one seems interested in acquiring Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. -- and its $4 billion in debt.
And that's bad news for the once major film studio as a large $400 million bill comes due next moth, and there seems little hope that it will be paid without yet another delay. That has led trade publication The Hollywood Reporter to speculate that at least one of the film studio's 100 or so lenders could force it into bankruptcy.
If that happens, there's no telling what could happen to some of MGM's key properties, and not just James Bond and "The Hobbit" -- but also its Stargate properties like Syfy's "Stargate: Universe."
"It's kind of become a joke," one unnamed executive told The Hollywood Reporter, who is considering some sort of partnership with MGM. "There is a real fatigue among the lenders after all" the delays -- six in all -- to pay down $250 million from a revolving loan that is due, along with $200 million in related interested payments.
If another delay isn't granted, or if any of the lenders get fed up with what's happening, any of them can file an involuntary bankruptcy petition with the courts to put the fate of MGM in a judge's hands. Typically, involuntary bankruptcies are hard to push through. But considering the amount of money and the number of lenders involved in the current MGM debacle, it might be easier than anticipated.
But there is a lot of question marks surrounding what would happen to MGM's assets if a judge were in charge of restructuring. Typically, the best way to pay off debt is through liquidation, meaning the studio's prized assets like James Bond and Stargate would be auctioned off, or sold through deals with lenders. That would put these properties in new hands, where there's no telling what direction they would take them, and also mean almost certain death for MGM, which was founded in 1924.
What got MGM in so much trouble? A lot of it came from the studio's buying spree in the late 1990s that included the $573 million purchase of Metromedia subsidiaries Orion Pictures, The Samuel Goldwyn Co. and the Motion Picture Corp. of America in 1997, according to Wikipedia. Later, MGM got a loan to buy the 1,300-title library from Polygram Film Entertainment for $250 million as well as the broadcast rights to more than 800 of its films that previously were licensed to Turner Broadcasting.
In 2001, MGM bought a 20 percent stake in Cablevision Systems for $825 million, and even tried to buy out Universal Studios two years later, but didn't succeed.
MGM also was selling at this time, but not in a good way. A deal to sell off some of its cable assets resulted in a $75 million loss.
Lenders had been negotiating with Lions Gate Entertainment for a possible takeover for months, but that deal collapsed last month, and no other suitors seem to be lined up.
The sad part is, MGM won't be able to delay debt payments for much longer, and when it can't pay those bills, a messy situation will likely become a disaster. And properties like James Bond, "The Hobbit" and Stargate, will suffer significantly.
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