Just a month months after it made the deal for $255M, Lionsgate is selling off a minority stake in its TV Guide cable channel. I’m told the mini-major is in talks with potential partners. “We could either do a deal with a financial partner, who would probably contribute 50% of the $250 million price, or a strategic investor, who might contribute some content and a financial stake less than 50%,” an insider explains to me. “In either case, we would retain majority control. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a partner in place within the next month or two.” Bloomberg reports today that the company will “choose from among three bidders in the very near term” and that the suitors include two financial firms and a media company. Lionsgate plans to remake the TV Guide channel, which reaches into 83 million U.S. homes, along the lines of Bravo and F/X.
Corporate raider/shareholder activist Carl Icahn was opposed to the TV Guide Network deal, but Lionsgate couldn’t care. As a source tells me, “We said on our February 10th analyst call that we would look to bring in a minority partner as soon as we closed the deal, and that’s what we’re doing.” But Lionsgate needs as much cash as it can get its hands on because of its battle with Icahn for control of the film and TV studio.
Icahn currently owns 14.5% after buying up shares on the cheap after Lionsgate’s stock price plunged 15% this year. Now he’s seeking to buy Lionsgate debt at a discount, and today extended his offer to buy $350M of the studio’s debt until May 1st. That move came in response to Lionsgate’s private deal with two bondholders to refinance $66.6 million in convertible debt, effectively blocking the duo from tendering their bonds to Icahn. Needless to say, Icahn wasn’t at all happy about Lionsgate “special” deal and accused it today of “favoring a select few bondholders at the expense of all shareholders and the other bondholders”.
The result is that Carl had better work quickly (and not just because my eyes are beginning to glaze over as this fight drags on and on): he’s disclosed that only $8.9M tendered bonds are under his control since announcing his move to acquire Lionsgate debt back on March 12th. And let’s not forget the Lionsgate shareholders meeting in September.