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Summit management considering buyout of 'Twilight' studio [Updated]

December 12, 2011 | 11:51 am

SummitFriedmanWachsberger
As "Twilight" studio Summit Entertainment is immersed in negotiations with multiple parties to get acquired before the end of the year, a new bidder may have emerged: Summit itself.

Co-chairmen Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger are putting together a management buyout plan in partnership with a private equity fund to take financial control of Summit, according to a person familiar with the matter but not authorized to speak publicly.

[Update, 12:31 p.m.: A person close to Friedman and Wachsberger who declined to be identified because of the privacy of ongoing discussions denied that a management-led buyout is in fact in the works.]

The plan would involve Friedman and Wachsberger buying out their current investors, which include private equity firm Rizvi Traverse Management and film financing and production company Participant Media. It would leave the two chiefs of Santa Monica-based Summit in control, as opposed to other proposals currently on the table that would merge the independent studio with Lions Gate Entertainment or Miramax Films.

Under the Lions Gate scenario, Friedman and Wachsberger would head Lions Gate's motion picture group while the company's Chief Executive Jon Feltheimer and Vice Chairman Michael Burns would remain in charge. At Miramax, the duo would have to work with that studio's Chief Executive Mike Lang and report to its investor Colony Capital, a Santa Monica private equity firm, which is leading an effort to acquire Summit.

Lions Gate and Colony are both offering $350 million to $400 million in cash and agreeing to assume about $200 million in debt to buy Summit, the person said.

It's not yet known how much the management-led buyout would be worth and whether it could best the other two bids on the table.

TTwilightLoveOther potential buyers have been contacting Summit and "kicking the tires," said several knowledgeable people who declined to be identified, but so far none has put together plans as serious as those of Lions Gate, Colony/Miramax or Friedman and Wachsberger.

Summit's owners appear eager to sell the company by the end of the year in part because potential buyers are interested in the one remaining "Twilight" film, but also because of the studio's strong cash position.

Hundreds of millions of dollars Summit would otherwise spend on film production and operations will be paid out to investors under the provisions of a refinancing plan closed last year, the knowledgeable person said.

A spokesman for Summit did not respond to a request for comment. Freidman and Wachsberger could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for Participant did not respond to a request for comment and a spokesman for Rizvi could not be reached.

-- Ben Fritz

RELATED:

Lions Gate, Summit homing in on key details for proposed merger

Summit Entertainment, Lions Gate said to be back in merger talks

Summit to pay out share of 'Twilight' profits to investors as it recapitalizes

Top photo: Summit Entertainment Co-chairmen Patrick Wachsberger and Rob Friedman at their Santa Monica office. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times. Bottom photo: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse." Credit: Kimberley French / Summit Entertainment.

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