Lionsgate About To Do Big Relativity Deal: So Why Today's Layoffs?

EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate’s Jon Feltheimer and Michael Burns were having a celebratory St Patrick’s Day dinner at the Chateau Marmont with Relativity Media’s Ryan Kavanaugh on March 17th. “The guys are on their second bottle of expensive wine and getting along like a house on fire,” my source who spotted them emailed me. For some time, I’d been tracking Relativity Media shopping a major film financing package described as a “mega first-look deal” to four studios: Universal, Paramount, Sony, and Lionsgate. Kavanaugh’s goal was to leverage all four studios against one another. But first Paramount found it “economically unattractive”. Universal (from whom Relativity recently bought Rogue Pictures and has an ongoing relationship with Kavanaugh’s company) said no. Sony was on the verge of saying yes earlier this month but then pulled out of the talks abruptly. (I heard from several insiders that it was an internal decision because Screen Gems’ Clint Culpepper “got word of it and freaked out about losing as many as one and possibly two slots in this deal that included as many as five guaranteed slots a year.”) That messed up Kavanaugh’s plan to leverage the big studio and the mini-major against one another. But in the end, Lionsgate took the deal. Only it hasn’t been announced yet.

Now I know why. Because the bastards running Lionsgate want to get their 8% staff cuts out of the way first.

Talk about having no shame: I can’t believe that Jon Feltheimer and Michael Burns could even contemplate another round of layoffs, this time axing another 45 jobs today from their 550-person payroll. And let’s not forget that on October 8th, Feltheimer signed a new contract giving him a base salary of $1.2 million while the company is losing money, plus over 900,000 stock options (at $5 per share today, that’s $4.5 mil) while he’s cutting secretaries and clerical and support staff. As a staffer emailed me, “The management has alway operated understaffed to maintain their bottom line and please the shareholders. More like please themselves and fill their own pockets!  Start talking to the general staff and they’ll tell you they need more people.  The employees are overworked and underpaid. The layoffs in the last few months are what’s called taking advantage of the country’s economic downturn and jumping on board for the same ride.”

Now, you watch: the Relativity deal will be announced within days (or maybe, because I’ve outed them all, within weeks.)

This is the sort of “We got ours, You’ll never get yours” behavior that makes Hollywood so sickening right now. The economic crisis is being blamed for all sorts of cutbacks that don’t have to be made. Trust me, even the studio moguls are saying this privately. Especially when the box office is running hot and Lionsgate is primarily a movie play. I find it interesting that the Los Angeles Times and the trades keep treating Lionsgate management as the “victim” in this battle with corporate raider/shareholder activist Carl Icahn. Seems to me the real victims are Lionsgate’s loyal staffers being betrayed by the mini-major’s management.

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