EXCLUSIVE: Looks like Hollywood’s biggest lenders are about to call off the dogs on Annapurna, Megan Ellison’s taste-maker production/distribution company. Sources said that Ellison’s father, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, has submitted a “last and final offer” to pay Annapura’s key lenders, offering between 80 cents-85 cents on the dollar. This for a debt sources place at north of $200 million that the company defaulted on, through its $350 million credit facility secured in fall 2017. The credit facility was to be replenished by receivables, which weren’t nearly enough to service the debt.
Word in banking circles is that the major lenders, including JP Morgan and Wells Fargo, stand to lose one-fifth of what they are owed. But sources said those two banks have enough business with Larry Ellison and Oracle that they were inclined to accept that and coax other lenders holding smaller markers to accept the compromise. Some of the others wanting to take a harder stance which would have pushed Annapurna into Chapter 11 and taken away the Annapurna name that Megan Ellison badly wants to keep. Deadline broke the story of the tug of war between the Ellison home office and the banks August 7.
After Deadline’s story, Megan Ellison quickly issued an internal note that was spread to the trades, which characterized the situation as almost a blip on the radar, telling staffers that her commitment was as strong as ever. She has long been a benefactor in a segment of the movie business in need of one, empowering films from Zero Dark Thirty to The Master to most recently the Adam McKay-directed Vice. But contingency plans were in place for a Chapter 11 filing, sources said, and some suspect that Ellison will scale back her ambitions and become involved with fewer projects than was required once the company put a full marketing and distribution operation in place. With few Annapurna projects to service, United Artists Releasing later became a 50-50 joint venture with costs shared by MGM — which includes the domestic distribution of James Bond 25. It has given MGM a distribution apparatus for the first time in years, one that is looking to sign up third-party films for release.
Annapurna’s latest film opened over the weekend, the Richard Linklater-directed Cate Blanchett-starrer Where’d You Go Bernadette. The film finished its opening weekend with a $3.4 million gross on 2,404 screens, results that won’t change the current narrative. Some believe that Ellison won’t get busy with new projects until her exclusivity with UAR expires. Sources said that comes in January, though Annapurna’s financial commitment to the joint venture runs through the end of 2020.
The settlement with the banks isn’t quite done but is on the way. Sources in banking circles said that had Annapurna been placed in Chapter 11, the syndicate of senior lenders might only have gotten 50 cents-60 cents on the dollar. All along, many felt that Larry Ellison would not subject his daughter to the embarrassment of Chapter 11, though he clearly has gotten more involved in trying to set some fiscal discipline within the company a year ago, when two films — Hustlers and the untitled Roger Ailes movie — were dropped. Both found other backers.
“This is rich people problems,” quipped one in the lending community.
No comment from Annapurna or the Ellison clan.