Sony and Apollo Take Key Step in Bid for Paramount’s Assets

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Sony Pictures Entertainment and Apollo Global Management have taken a significant step forward in their effort to court Paramount, three people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The two companies have signed nondisclosure agreements with Paramount, allowing them to look at Paramount’s nonpublic financial information, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss active negotiations. Paramount previously shared materials with another suitor, the Hollywood studio Skydance.

Early this month, Sony and Apollo sent Paramount a nonbinding expression of interest in acquiring the company for $26 billion. The two had been seeking to buy Paramount for its studio and then sell off other parts of its empire, which includes CBS, cable channels like MTV and the Paramount Plus streaming service.

But Sony’s shareholders have fretted over the possible acquisition, given the potential cost of a bid for Paramount and the headwinds facing the subscription streaming business. Sony and Apollo are now contemplating a variety of approaches to acquire the company’s assets, but are backing away from their plan to make an all-cash, $26 billion offer for Paramount, two of the people said.

Sony’s new vision for a deal could alter the dynamics of Paramount’s effort to sell itself or merge with another company. Paramount previously rebuffed Sony’s offer to buy just its studio, and Paramount’s controlling shareholder, Shari Redstone, has long sought a deal for the entire company.

A person familiar with Ms. Redstone’s thinking has said that a breakup of the company is not a deal breaker, depending on the terms, but that she prefers to keep Paramount intact.

Ms. Redstone has blessed a deal to sell her stake in National Amusements, Paramount’s parent company, to Skydance, but Skydance’s bid for the entire company has faced significant pushback from Paramount’s common shareholders.

Paramount let an exclusive negotiation window with Skydance lapse in recent weeks, but the two are still talking, and Skydance remains interested in a deal.

The deal talks are happening at a tumultuous time for Paramount. The company’s chief executive, Bob Bakish, stepped down last month after more than a quarter-century at the company. He was replaced in the interim by three executives running an “office of the C.E.O.”: George Cheeks, the chief executive of CBS; Chris McCarthy, the chairman of Showtime and MTV Entertainment Studios; and Brian Robbins, the chief executive of Paramount Pictures.



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