Shari Redstone weighs options for Paramount as Skydance eyes bid for studio

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Paramount Global’s controlling shareholder has held talks about a sale of the legendary Hollywood studio and other assets to Skydance, the production company behind Top Gun: Maverick, according to people familiar with the company controlled by Shari Redstone. 

Skydance, whose shareholders include the Ellison family and RedBird Capital Partners, has emerged as a leading contender to take over Redstone’s National Amusements, which has a controlling stake in Paramount.* The two companies have co-produced a series of movies.

The conversations were at a very early stage and there was no certainty they would lead to a deal, two knowledgeable people said. Other parties were also interested in acquiring some of Paramount’s assets, they added.

Skydance was particularly interested in Paramount’s Hollywood studio, people familiar with the New York-based company said. But other assets, including TV networks such as CBS and its lossmaking streaming platform Paramount Plus, could be acquired and then sold to other potential buyers.

Skydance declined to comment. RedBird did not respond to a request for comment. Paramount declined to comment.

Founded in 2010 by David Ellison, son of billionaire Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, Skydance has co-produced a number of blockbusters with Paramount, including the Tom Cruise vehicles Top Gun and the Mission: Impossible films. Their next Mission: Impossible film is due out in cinemas in 2025.

The Ellison family is the largest shareholder in Skydance, which would have little trouble raising capital for a deal. In October 2022, Skydance’s valuation jumped to $4bn following a cash injection of $400mn led by RedBird, along with the Ellison family, KKR and Tencent.

Paramount also received a boost in 2022 when Warren Buffett disclosed he had purchased a stake of about 75mn shares at $28 per share — well above where they stand today.

But the shares have risen 39 per cent over the past month as speculation mounted that the company was exploring a sale. The stock rose 12 per cent to $16.85 on Friday.  

Redstone has long said the company, whose roots lie in a drive-in cinema business founded by her grandfather, was not for sale. But last month Paramount’s board of directors approved “golden parachute” compensation for chief executive Bob Bakish and other senior executives, prompting speculation that she was open to offers.

Like other big, diversified studios, Paramount’s traditional TV business is in decline and its streaming business has lost billions.

Rich Greenfield, an analyst at LightShed Partners, said in a recent research note that Paramount faced a “very difficult future”.

“Whether or not . . . Shari Redstone wants to sell, we have a hard time seeing how a sale in whole or in pieces is not Paramount’s ultimate fate,” he wrote.

But he added that he expected Redstone to take other steps before selling the studio, including cutting costs, dramatically scaling back its ambitions for Paramount Plus and increasing licensing deals with other streamers.

Talks between Paramount and Skydance were first reported by Puck.

*This story has been amended to clarify that the potential bid is for Paramount’s controlling shareholder, National Amusements


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