Sumner Redstone to unload 35 theaters including L.A.'s Bridge to help pay down debt
In addition to selling close to $1 billion in stock in CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc. to help pay down his family-held company's excruciating debt, Sumner Redstone will unload 35 of National Amusement Inc.'s 79 U.S. theaters, including its only West Coast multiplex, The Bridge in Los Angeles, according to people familiar with the matter.
The bulk of the theaters that National is selling are primarily in the Midwest and south of New York, including those in Washington, D.C.
National Amusements, whose theater circuit is based outside Boston
in Norwood, Mass., and is run by Sumner's daughter Shari Redstone, will
hold on to 44 of its core U.S. theaters in the New England and New York
The Redstones also plan to keep National Amusements' theaters in the United Kingdom and Brazil. Though father and daughter aren't saying, it is believed they will also keep their theaters in Russia, a burgeoning market where the circuit owns four out of the top six highest-grossing cinemas in the country. National's theaters in Argentina, however, are likely to eventually be sold but are not included in the original 35 to be divested.
Earlier this year it looked like Redstone's best option to pay down debt was to sell off most or all of his cinemas. He put the circuit up for auction, attracting a number of bids both from strategic players (other theater chains) and financial parties (including private equity firms). National's investment bankers are still sorting through those offers for the 35 theaters it now plans to sell.
--Claudia Eller and Meg James
Photo: National Amusements' The Bridge theater in Los Angeles. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times.