Exclusive: Ousted MGM CEO explores bid for the U.S. movie studio - sources

(Reuters) - Former MGM Holdings Inc MGMB.PK Chief Executive Officer Gary Barber, who was ousted earlier this year, is speaking to investment banks about financing an offer to acquire the privately held U.S. movie studio, five people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Gary Barber, co-CEO of MGM, accepts the award for Best Action Movie for "Skyfall" at the 2013 Critics' Choice Awards in Santa Monica, California, January 10, 2013. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

MGM could be worth more than $5 billion including debt, and it is far from certain that Barber can raise the funds for a bid, the sources said. His potential bid, however, is aimed at convincing the hedge funds that own and control MGM to explore a sale, the sources added.

Barber owns about 9 percent of MGM through stock options after serving as its CEO between 2010 and 2018, according to the sources. He was let go abruptly in March from MGM after signing a five-year extension to his contract, according to the sources. MGM at the time did not give a reason for his departure.

The sources asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential.

Anchorage Capital Group LLC, the largest shareholder, along with the other owners, have high valuation expectations for the company and believe the company can still grow in value, the sources said.

A representative for Anchorage and another MGM owner, Highland Capital Management, declined to comment. Barber and MGM could not be reached for comment. Solus Alternative Asset Management, another investor in MGM, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Famous for its library that includes the James Bond franchise, “Rocky” and other classic movies, MGM co-produces and distributes television shows such as “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu, “Vikings” on A&E and “Fargo” on FX. It also owns MGM-branded U.S. channels that play its films and international networks.

Barber led the company’s turnaround following its emergence from bankruptcy in 2010. Since Barber’s departure, MGM’s board created an “office of the CEO” comprised of a group of senior leaders to run the company.

Anchorage has a roughly 35 percent stake, according to sources, while a filing showed that Highland and Solus each own more than 10 percent of the company.

The hedge funds were creditors for MGM before it filed for bankruptcy, and it is unusual for them to keep their ownership stakes for almost a decade.

MGM has so far been in an acquisitive mode, rather than showing any willingness to sell. It bought the 81 percent stake in U.S. channel Epix it did not already own from Viacom Inc VIAB.O and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp LGFa.N for about $1 billion last year.

MGM has about $1.9 billion in debt, including a revolving credit line, according to Thomson Reuters Loan Pricing Corp. It generated annual revenue of $1.3 billion last year, up from $1.18 billion a year earlier. It reported net income of $548 million last year, up from $155 million in 2016.

Reporting by Liana B. Baker and Jessica Toonkel in New York; additional reporting by Jessica DiNapoli; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Lisa Shumaker