Deal Talks Between Paramount and Skydance Heat Up

Shari Redstone is getting one step closer to selling her media empire.

Paramount, home to one of Hollywood’s most storied movie studios as well as CBS and cable networks like Nickelodeon, has been discussing entering into exclusive talks with the media company Skydance for a potential deal, according to four people with knowledge of the discussions. Moving to exclusive talks would be a significant step forward in a process that has been shrouded in uncertainty for months.

Whether the two sides will agree to exclusivity remains to be seen, especially with other investors still pursuing Paramount. Apollo Global Management, an investment firm with more than $500 billion under management, has submitted an $11 billion offer to acquire the Paramount movie studio. Paramount’s board of directors, though, is seeking a deal for the entire company — including its cable channels and CBS — rather than pieces.

Apollo continues to evaluate what proposal might most appeal to the company’s board, two people familiar with the situation said. Byron Allen, whose Entertainment Studios owns the Weather Channel, has also expressed interest in acquiring Paramount.

Ms. Redstone, the controlling shareholder of Paramount, began negotiating with Skydance to sell her stake in the company last year. She controls Paramount through National Amusements, a holding company that owns her voting stock in Paramount. Ms. Redstone has held off on a sale for years, betting that the company’s fortunes would improve as its flagship streaming service, Paramount+, gained momentum.

The terms of the deal being discussed would involve Skydance’s buying National Amusements and merging with Paramount. That deal hinges on approval from Paramount’s board, which has for weeks been weighing its options with the help of advisers.

Late last month, David Ellison, the tech scion who founded Skydance, met with Paramount’s board committee to discuss his vision for a deal, according two of the people familiar with the talks. Founded in 2010, Skydance is best known for shepherding blockbusters for Paramount, including movies in the “Mission: Impossible” and “Top Gun” franchises.

Representatives for Paramount and Skydance declined to comment, and the financial terms of the deal couldn’t be learned.

Paramount’s stock has fallen 18 percent since the start of the year amid headwinds for the media industry. The company is trading at a steep discount to the combined value of Viacom and CBS, which merged to form Paramount in 2019. Paramount+ is still losing money, but its losses have slowed and it continues to add subscribers.

The ratings agency S&P Global downgraded Paramount’s debt to junk last week, citing “accelerating declines” in its traditional television business and continued uncertainty in its push toward streaming. Some analysts said that ratings action might make Paramount easier to acquire, since it could circumnavigate a provision that would require a buyer to immediately pay the company’s debt.

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