Carl Icahn on Wednesday said that he is on the verge of becoming the largest single shareholder of Lions Gate Entertainment Inc., with 12.5 percent of shares so far tended in response to his $7-a-share offer.
The billionaire investor last week set a deadline of 5 p.m. Pacific time today for shareholders to sell Icahn Group their shares. The tender offer is Icahn’s latest effort to obtain control over the specialty film and TV studio, which has main operations in Santa Monica but corporate headquarters in Vancouver, B.C.
Shareholders are committed to sell the shares after the deadline passes, with Icahn telling Reuters this afternoon that he is on track to control at least 31 percent of shares by the end of the day. Icahn currently owns nearly 19 percent, and has threatened a proxy battle to replace directors on the board with his own picks.
Until recently, tendered shares had only trickled in, forcing Icahn to extend his deadline several times. But last week, Dallas Mavericks owner and media entrepreneur Mark Cuban said he would tender his 5.3 percent stake, and other shareholders have since followed suit.
Icahn has said that even after today’s deadline, he would continue to honor the $7 share offer until June 30 for any other shareholders wishing to sell.
Icahn made comments to the media today, but has not issued a press release. A Lions Gate representative said the company would not issue its own statement until Icahn has issued a formal statement.
Management has asserted throughout the battle with Icahn that the activist investor was undervaluing the company, and if he gained control would pursue policies that would hurt the company’s growth. Shareholders in April approved a “poison pill” plan designed to stymie unfriendly takeover attempts, but Icahn successfully appealed to Canadian regulators and judges to block the plan.
There are concerns that if Icahn gains greater than 20 percent control of shares that would trigger “change-of-control” provisions in the senior management contracts and cause lenders to demand immediate debt payment. A studio representative said Wednesday the company continues to be in “advanced talks” with JPMorgan Chase and other lenders to grant a waiver.
Lions Gate shares closed down 6 cents, or less than a percent, to $6.93 on the New York Stock Exchange.
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