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Media mogul Barry Diller weighs a bid to gain control of Paramount

Heidi Gutman | CNBC
  • Barry Diller's IAC is exploring a bid to take control of Paramount Global, CNBC's David Faber reported on Tuesday.
  • The offer would be for Shari Redstone's National Amusements Inc., the controlling shareholder of Paramount.
  • National Amusements recently stopped discussions with Skydance on a proposed merger with Paramount.

A new suitor for Paramount Global has emerged.

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Media mogul Barry Diller is taking a look at acquiring National Amusements Inc., the company owned by Shari Redstone and the controlling shareholder of Paramount, CNBC's David Faber reported on Tuesday.

Diller's IAC, an internet media and publishing company, has signed a nondisclosure agreement and is looking in the data room of National Amusements, Faber said Tuesday. IAC could make a decision in the near term to place a bid on National Amusements, which would give it a controlling stake in Paramount, he said, citing sources.

These discussions come weeks after National Amusements stopped talks with Skydance on a proposed merger with Paramount.

Following months of deal talks with a consortium that included David Ellison's Skydance and private equity firms RedBird Capital and KKR, the deal was called off as it awaited signoff from Redstone. National Amusements, which Redstone controls, holds 77% of class A Paramount shares.

Prior to calling off the proposed merger, National Amusements had agreed to financial terms of the deal, CNBC reported. The proposed deal would have seen Redstone receive $2 billion for National Amusements, with Skydance buying out nearly 50% of class B Paramount shares at $15 apiece, or $4.5 billion. Skydance and RedBird had also agreed to contribute $1.5 billion in cash to Paramount's balance sheet to help reduce debt.

Terms of IAC's potential bid are unknown, but it would likely have to be more than $2 billion, Faber reported Tuesday. The New York Times first reported Diller's interest in Paramount.

While Diller, 82, is currently the chairman of IAC and Expedia, he has a long track record in the media industry, including serving as chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures in the 1970s and 1980s. He followed Paramount with his post at the head of 20th Century Fox, where he greenlit Fox network programs including "The Simpsons."

Diller has been vocal about the need for legacy media companies such as Paramount to give up on chasing Netflix in the streaming wars and focus on their broadcast and pay-TV networks.

During the Hollywood strikes last summer, he said that despite cord cutting, traditional pay-TV is still profitable — unlike most streaming businesses. He called on legacy media to build up traditional networks again.

Diller tried to acquire Paramount Pictures in the 1990s, but went toe-to-toe with Sumner Redstone, the father of Shari Redstone, who now controls the company.

Since then, Paramount has changed and grown in various ways. The company now comprises the movie studio, as well as the CBS broadcast network, a portfolio of cable TV networks such as MTV and BET plus streaming services Paramount+ and Pluto.

While other suitors have reportedly been interested in owning Paramount, the company has been focused on restructuring its business.

Now led by the so-called Office of the CEO — CBS CEO George Cheeks, Paramount Media Networks CEO Chris McCarthy and Paramount Pictures CEO Brian Robbins — Paramount has concentrated on exploring streaming joint venture opportunities with other media companies, slashing $500 million in costs and divesting noncore assets.

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