Joe Drake is an important guy inside Lionsgate as co-COO, prez of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, and CEO of Mandate Pictures. When his Mandate Pictures was acquired by Lionsgate August 2007, he began oversight of all areas of the company’s theatrical production, distribution, marketing, acquisition, and international theatrical operations. He’s also one of the 4 top guys in the decision-making team of the indie studio. Well, film financing insiders are emailing me furiously that Drake sold 62,500 shares of Lionsgate on July 10th. He sold another 62,500 shares on August 12th and 13th. That’s 125,000 shares in the past month — despite the bullishness of analysts who’ve issued “buy” ratings on this stock. On August 10th, shares of Lionsgate soared more than 12% before close of market day when Lionsgate released 1st-quarter results of fiscal year 2010 (the period ending June 30th, 2009) that blew past Wall Street projections.
The mini major reported net earnings per share of 30 cents for the quarter, or 21 cents on an adjusted basis, compared to the loss of 1 cent that analysts forecast. Revenues also rose 30%. And profit rose on higher television revenue and the addition of the TV Guide channel. But what was clear from the latest earnings statement is that Jon Feltheimer, himself a former TV exec, has turned Lionsgate into much more of a small screen company than a big screen play. That’s not why Drake sold. The reason is way more boring: “It’s what’s known as a 10b5 filing, which is a form of structured sale by an insider,” Lionsgate tells me. “He filed back in June or July to sell 500,000 shares over a six-month period. It’s for estate planning purposes and to pay taxes on stock he received at the time of the Mandate purchase in August 2007. Under that 10b5 filing, he has sold 375,000 shares to date and has 125,000 to go.”
Meanwhile, on Friday, Icahn Capital reported it had increased its stake in Lionsgate. Last we knew according to previous filings, Icahn owned about 17.7% of the mini major. And as of July 8th Icahn’s entities held 20.7 million shares. He’s been fairly quiet ever since Lionsgate management turned down his request for board seats, and then convertible debtholders largely rejected his tender offer for $325 million of convertible debt earlier this year. Just recently, Lionsgate named Mark Rachesky, its largest shareholder and Icahn’s former investment protogee to its slate of board nominees which will seek approval from the upcoming September shareholders meeting. Exactly what Icahn, Lionsgate’s 2nd largest shareholder, plans to do next is unclear. Run his own slate? Not enough time. Dump his stake? Hardly, not with the stock up.