Sony in Talks to Join a Bid to Buy Paramount

Even as Paramount, the home of the “Top Gun” movie franchise and “SpongeBob SquarePants,” continues its talks to merge with another media company, Skydance, a new suitor has emerged.

Sony Pictures Entertainment and Apollo Global Management, an investment firm, have been in discussions about teaming up for a joint bid to acquire Paramount, two people familiar with the situation said Thursday.

The two companies have not submitted an official bid, as Paramount is still in exclusive conversations with Skydance, said the people, who were granted anonymity to discuss delicate negotiations. But the potential deal with Skydance has generated significant investor pushback.

Apollo previously reached out to Paramount about buying the company for at least $26 billion, including debt. But Paramount’s board proceeded with its more advanced conversations with Skydance, amid questions about Apollo’s financing. A joint bid with Sony would almost certainly reduce those concerns, adding operational experience and additional capital to Apollo’s already significant war chest.

Tony Vinciquerra, the chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment, has held conversations in the last week with Apollo about teaming up on a bid, the people said. The bid would be an all-cash offer for the outstanding stock in Paramount, in effect taking the company private through a joint venture.

The terms of the joint bid are still being worked out, and it’s possible that Sony and Apollo may not make an offer for Paramount, one of the people said. One structure could have Apollo take a minority stake in the joint venture, with Sony becoming the majority owner and operating the company. At some point, Apollo could cash out its investment, possibly by selling its stake back to Sony.

If Sony prevailed in its bid, the company would most likely operate the Paramount studio as a label within its own media empire, fusing the studio’s marketing and distribution arm with its own. It remains to be seen how CBS, one of Paramount’s crown jewels, would fit into the combined company along with Paramount’s fading cable channels.

National Amusements, the company that controls Paramount, has already signed off on a potential deal with Skydance, which is controlled by David Ellison, the tech scion and Hollywood executive. National Amusements is controlled by Shari Redstone, who has appointed a special committee of independent board advisers to weigh Skydance’s offer. Because Skydance’s proposal would give Ms. Redstone cash and Paramount shareholders stock in a new company, several investors have objected.

Skydance’s deal for Paramount would bring expertise to Paramount, including tech and animation know-how from Mr. Ellison’s management team, which includes John Lasseter, a former Pixar executive. The plan calls for operational efficiencies and for Skydance to supercharge Paramount’s streaming abilities.

The fusion of Paramount and Sony would create a media colossus that would put a collection of TV channels and movie studios under the same corporate umbrella. But Mr. Vinciquerra has experience managing both TV and studio properties, having worked at both Fox and CBS.

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