Edgar Bronfman Jr. Eyes Deal As Skydance Talks Continue

Yet another name has surfaced in the Paramount Global scrum as former entertainment executive and beverage billionaire Edgar Bronfman Jr. is eyeing control of the company in a deal scenario with multiple moving pieces, even as Shari Redstone‘s camp remains deep in talks with Skydance.

Takeover speculation has engulfed Paramount since last October and Skydance surfaced shortly after, so it’s been a long slog. In May, Par’s CEO departed. In June, four board members stepped down.

Bronfman is the latest potential buyer to emerge for Redstone’s controlling stake in Paramount, backed by Bain Capital. Deadline has confirmed his interest, which comes as producer Steven Paul has assembled a group of deep-pocketed investors for a deal. Both are looking at an acquisition of Redstone’s family holding company NAI, which owns about 80% of Paramount Global‘s Class A voting stock, meaning a change in ownership of a public company, not a merger.

Meanwhile, Redstone and NAI intensified talks with David Ellison‘s Skydance over the weekend on what would be a much more complex deal. Two steps would see Skydance — backed by Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Gerry Cardinale’s RedBird Capital — acquire control of Paramount from Redstone, and then merge Skydance with Paramount in an all-stock transaction. That second part would dilute existing shareholders, most of whom hold Class B non-voting stock. Those investors have been furious and threatened to sue, which pushed Skydance to sweeten the pot for them in two revised offers; the latest included buying out about half of the outstanding B shares at a premium. To find the cash to do that, Skydance trimmed the payout to Redstone for NAI to about $2.25 billion.

The offers from Bronfman and Paul for Redstone’s stake in Paramount are said to be higher.

Paramount’s studio in Los Angeles

Dominic Patten/Deadline

Family-owned businesses especially in media often have two classes of stock to ensure control. The idea is that shareholders know that when they invest. So they may have less standing to sue in a change of control situation.

Bronfman’s family acquired Seagram in the 1920s and built it into an industry leader. With Edgar Jr. at the helm, Seagram acquired Universal in 1995 and he became a big player in Hollywood. He sold the company to Vivendi (and the liquor business separately) and was executive chair of Vivendi Universal for a time, eventually stepping down. He later acquired Warner Music Group, in 2004 and ran it until the sale to Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries in 2011.

“Bronfman is very real. He can come up with the money,” said a well-positioned source of the former Universal owner’s eleventh-hour entry. “But it won’t stop the lawsuits.”

One Wall Streeter noted that Redstone’s father Sumner Redstone was notoriously litigious and finds ironic the potential legal battles looming over the sale of Paramount, whatever happens. Determining who will bear the cost of eventual litigation is one of the points under discussion with Skydance as talks move ahead.

Paul, founder of Crystal Sky Entertainment and a handful of sister companies, is friendly with Redstone and has some ties to Paramount. It’s not clear who all his partners are in a potential deal but news reports have mentioned John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of Paul Mitchell hair care and Patrón Spirits, and Norwegian American investor Philip Odegarde.

Deadline hears that Sony is continuing due diligence, although partner Apollo has been very quiet.

Paramount shares have been volatile over nine months of deal speculation. They began to slip last week after the Skydance deal got a stamp of approval from the board committee and went to Redstone, with no announcement forthcoming. The stock is trading off about 1% today at $11.93 — well below a 52-week high near $18.


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