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MGM Said to Be Taking Bids for United Artists

January 20, 2006|Claudia Eller and James Bates | Times Staff Writers

The owners of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. are entertaining offers from several suitors to sell the historic United Artists movie label, an executive familiar with the details said Thursday.

However, another executive with knowledge of the talks said an outright purchase was only one of many options, which primarily involve forming strategic alliances. No deal is imminent, but at least one bid for the studio topped $500 million.

Acquiring UA would enable a buyer to form a new, independent studio. Included in a sale would be a package of fewer than 100 select movie titles from both the UA and MGM libraries. It would not include the "James Bond" franchise, UA's most successful series of films.

MGM also would turn over to any buyer a pay-TV deal with the Showtime network, and some other distribution agreements.

Among those known to have talked to MGM about UA are executives from independent studio Lionsgate and former 20th Century Fox studio chief Bill Mechanic.

MGM was acquired last April for $4.9 billion in cash and assumed debt by an investment group led by Sony Corp. The UA sale would help the group offset some of that cost.

Founded in 1919 by such stars as Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, United Artists has a rich history in Hollywood. MGM bought the studio in 1981.

UA's classic films include "Rocky," "Apocalypse Now," "West Side Story," "Rain Man" and "Annie Hall." The current awards contender "Capote" also carries the UA name, although it was released by Sony Pictures Classics. It is unclear whether any of those films would be part of the sale.

The prospective deal was reported in Thursday's New York Post.

MGM declined to comment.

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