UPDATE: Viacom took on $400 million in net debt and bought back a 51% majority stake in the DreamWorks SKG film library from billionaire investor George Soros in order to regain rights to 59 titles, including movies like Gladiator and Saving Private Ryan. Jeez, that sounds like Viacom overpaid ridiculously. But not when you realize that Viacom in March 2006 agreed to sell the library to Soros for $900 million and retained a 49% stake. The purchase was completed on February 8th, but not disclosed until today by Viacom COO Tom Dooley on an earnings call. Also it wasn’t voluntary: I’m told that Soros had a “put” to Viacom at the established price of $400 million. “This was all part of the charade under the original Deal,” as a source snarked to me. “The DW library, although chuck full of some compelling pictures, wasn’t worth anywhere near $950 million. So a deal was set up with Soros whereby Viacom would allow Soros, after 5 years, to ‘put’ the library back to Viacom for basically the shortfall.” This library sale comes after I recently broke the story that Disney wants to sell the Miramax name and 700-film library for a high of $700 million — and at least 10 bidders are lining up. Yet at one point Disney valued the Miramax library at $2 billion. And Warner Bros and Russian billionaire Len Blavatnik and others are trying to buy MGM’s 4,100-film library once valued at $2 billion and now thought to be offered for $1.6 billion to $1.7 billion. Plus, there’s Overture Film’s miniscule 14-film library for the taking. Blame the slump in DVD sales for the values of film libraries dropping so fast.
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