Dec. 10, 2005
Viacom near DreamWorks buy
Viacom Inc. on Friday was close to acquiring DreamWorks SKG Inc., the privately held studio co-founded by director Steven Spielberg, in a transaction that could take place as soon as this weekend, a source familiar with the plan said.
Viacom's board of directors has approved Paramount Pictures' decision to make an offer, the source said. Details on terms and financing were not immediately available.
DreamWorks had been in on-again, off-again talks with both Paramount and General Electric Co's NBC Universal unit, seeking $1 billion in cash and the assumption of debt.
DreamWorks turned out a number of critically acclaimed and successful films, such as "Saving Private Ryan," but had stumbled recently with the big budget flop "The Island."
The company also has a library of about 60 titles and a lucrative distribution deal with its publicly traded animation arm, DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., which produced the blockbuster computer generated films "Shrek" and "Shrek 2."
DreamWorks' other founders are music mogul David Geffen and former Walt Disney Co. Studios president Jeffrey Katzenberg, who now heads the animation company.
Paramount's new chief, Brad Grey, is a former talent manager who was brought in by Viacom with a mandate to shake up the studio after several years of weak results at the box office.
The Wall Street Journal, which first broke news of the renewed talks between Paramount and DreamWorks, reported on Friday that Paramount had "forged a deal" for the studio.
Viacom is splitting its fast growing cable and film divisions from more mature CBS broadcast and Infinity radio businesses to appeal to different classes of investors.
The company said it expects to complete the split by the end of 2005.