James Bond Producers Said to Join Bid for MGM Studio

James Bond Producers Said to Join Sahara Bid for MGM Studio
Actor Daniel Craig as James Bond in the movie "Casino Royale," Photographer: Jay Maidment/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. via Bloomberg

The Broccoli family, producers of the James Bond movies and co-owners of the franchise with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., are involved in Sahara India Pariwar’s $2 billion bid to buy the debt-laden studio, said a person with knowledge of the offer.

Barbara Broccoli and her stepbrother Michael G. Wilson are part of the Sahara India offer and would receive an undisclosed equity stake in MGM if it succeeds, said the person, who sought anonymity because the discussions are private.

EON Productions, the London-based producer of the Bond movies run by Broccoli and Wilson, said today it isn’t involved in Sahara India Pariwar’s bid for the studio.

“EON Productions tonight confirmed they have never had any contact with Sahara India Pariwar and are in no way involved in the Sahara India Pariwar bid for MGM,” spokeswoman Stephanie Wenborn said in a statement.

It wasn’t clear whether Broccoli and Wilson would have a management should Sahara India acquire the Los Angeles-based studio, the person said. Sahara India, based in Lucknow, offered $2 billion for MGM’s more than $3.7 billion in debt, the Associated Press reported on Sept. 17.

The overture comes as MGM’s creditors are scheduled to vote this week on a pre-packaged bankruptcy plan to restructure the company’s debt by converting it to equity in a merger with Hollywood producer Spyglass Entertainment. Sahara India has interests in finance, infrastructure and housing, media, consumer products, manufacturing and services, according to its website. Its entertainment operations include cable-television channels, film production and cinema chains.

‘Mutual Interest’

The talks involve Sahara India’s “mutual interest” with MGM, Abhijit Sarkar, head of corporate communications at Sahara India Pariwar, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. He declined to add to the statement today, saying “it’s too early to comment on the issue.”

Susie Arons, an outside spokeswoman for MGM, declined to comment.

Under MGM’s pre-packaged bankruptcy plan that creditors will vote on, Spyglass Entertainment co-chairmen Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, who produced “The Sixth Sense” and “Seabiscuit”, would operate the studio and swap the rights to their film library for a 5 percent stake in the new company.

Film Delayed

On April 19, EON Productions, the James Bond production company controlled by Broccoli and Wilson, said it would suspend development on the next installment in the 007 series, which was previously scheduled for release in late 2011.

“Due to the continued uncertainty surrounding the future of MGM and the failure to close a sale of the studio, we have suspended development on Bond 23 indefinitely,” EON said then in a statement.

EON has produced 22 Bond films since 1962. Broccoli and Wilson have run the studio since 1995, when they took over from the late Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, who initially controlled the franchise rights. The family owns a 50 percent stake in the franchise, with MGM’s United Artists studios owning the other 50 percent. EON controls the merchandise rights while the studio handles film-related distribution.

Broccoli and Wilson asked Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. film unit to stay involved in the MGM bidding, people with knowledge of the situation said in May. A $1.5 billion bid by Time Warner was rejected as too low, people with knowledge of the matter said in March.

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