Softbank Said to Discuss Investing in Legendary Studio

SoftBank Corp., the Japanese telecommunications company run by Masayoshi Son, is in talks to invest in “Godzilla” studio Legendary Entertainment, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

Under terms being discussed, the investment would be a minority stake and Legendary Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Tull would retain control of the independent studio, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. The investment may be more than $100 million and a deal may be announced in the near-term, one of the people said.

Investing in Legendary would give SoftBank access to Hollywood films and TV shows for networks it controls, including that of Sprint Corp., the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier. Son has been scouring Hollywood for investments, and has held talks with Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., people familiar with the matter have said.

“It’s necessary to invest in movies as SoftBank has little content,” Satoru Kikuchi, an analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo, said by phone. “To grow its primary businesses, video games aren’t enough, movies can generate a larger audience.”

A DreamWorks Animation deal hasn’t been formally discussed by senior executives at SoftBank, and the chances of reaching a final agreement are low, a person familiar with matters at Tokyo-based SoftBank has said.

‘Dark Knight’

SoftBank, which has a market value of about $84 billion, has invested in more than 1,300 technology companies, including a 32 percent stake in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. worth about $70 billion.

Legendary co-produced the “Dark Knight” films before breaking away from distributor Warner Bros., and now has an alliance with Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures. Its films have generated more than $9 billion at the global box office, according to its website.

Closely-held Legendary was valued at $2.5 billion last year by Forbes magazine.

SoftBank spokeswoman Mariko Osada declined to comment by phone.

Tull has embarked on ambitious, special-effects laden films such as “Pacific Rim,” which cost $190 million to make, according to Box Office Mojo, a figure that doesn’t include marketing. The movie generated $411 million in global ticket sales, which are split with theaters.

The company plans a sequel to “Godzilla,” its $160 million remake of the 1954 Japanese film. The film generated $525 million in theaters worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.

Legendary has also sought to expand into television and digital platforms, hiring Bruce Rosenblum, a former Warner Bros. executive, to lead that business.

The New York Post reported SoftBank’s talks with Legendary and DreamWorks Animation on Sept. 18.