Wanda Group in Talks for Minority Viacom Interest
$VIA, $CBS, $$AMC
Chinese real estate and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group has held talks with Viacom Inc (NASDAQ:VIA) about acquiring a minority stake in its Paramount Pictures unit, according to 2 people familiar with the situation.
Wanda’s interest adds new urgency to deliberations over Paramount’s future, which has become the flashpoint of a bitter row between Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman and the company’s controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone, 93 anni.
Wanda, which bought production company Legendary Entertainment in January, has been trying to expand its US movie business.
Mr. Redstone has so far opposed the sale, which is not possible without his consent. Other parties besides Wanda have also expressed an interest in Paramount, and there is no certainty any deal will be reached, the people said this week.
Viacom declined to comment.
Wanda did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this year, Wanda invested in Paramount’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” sequel.
If the 2 parties did agree to a deal, it would likely become the next flashpoint in the long-running battle for control of Sumner Redstone’s $40-B media empire.
The Paramount deal has been championed by Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, who is seeking to sell a 49% stake in the movie studio but opposed by Mr. Redstone, who owns 80% of Viacom and CBS Corp (NYSE:CBS).
It is not clear that Mr. Redstone and his daughter Shari Redstone would agree to a deal if one was struck.
Shari Redstone spokeswoman Nancy Sterling and Sumner Redstone spokesman Mike Lawrence declined to comment.
Paramount has special resonance for Mr. Redstone, he fought long and hard to acquire the movie studio from Barry Diller in Y 1994.
Mr. Dauman has said the divestiture would unlock value of $10 or more per Viacom share and that he would use the proceeds from a sale to pay off debt and for strategic development, particularly overseas.
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