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Digest

Metromedia Lion-ized

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. came roaring back into the ranks of major film studios last week by making a deal to acquire most of the entertainment assets of Metromedia International Group.

The $573 million cash purchase gives MGM, whose film library was severely depleted after its former management sold the legendary studio’s pre-1986 films to Ted Turner, one of the biggest libraries in Hollywood. Metromedia owns a 2,200-title film and TV library, which will be sold to MGM along with production companies Orion Pictures Corp. and Samuel Goldwyn Co., as well as 12 completed-but-unreleased films.

MGM itself was acquired just six months ago by financier Kirk Kerkorian’s Tracinda Corp. and the Australia-based Seven Network for $1.3 billion.

Analysts believe MGM might close the two production companies, both of which have struggled in recent years because of a string of unsuccessful films, and simply exploit their libraries. The growth of cable and satellite television in the United States and overseas has fueled strong demand for programming, making film and TV libraries increasingly valuable assets.

Metromedia, controlled by investor John Kluge, is shedding its programming assets to concentrate on its core business of global telecommunications and wireless television. It will keep one of its entertainment assets, the 138-screen Landmark Theatres chain, because MGM wasn’t interested in the property.

Ticketmaster Sues Microsoft

Mid-Wilshire-based Ticketmaster Group Inc. filed a suit against software giant Microsoft Corp. last week in a case that challenges the way World Wide Web sites link up to each other.

Ticketmaster claims Microsoft is enriching itself through an unauthorized link to Ticketmaster’s Web site, which can be accessed through a Microsoft site called Sidewalk.

It’s a common practice for Web site developers to make links to other sites considered interesting to viewers; developers seldom seek permission for doing so.

But Ticketmaster, whose site offers an online ticketing service, claims the Sidewalk link is illegal. It seeks unspecified damages.

Sidewalk is an advertiser-sponsored Web site offering Seattle residents information on local entertainment and shopping. Microsoft is developing similar sites for New York, Boston and Minneapolis; in Los Angeles, several such “city sites” already exist.

Popejoy Appointment

Newport Beach businessman and millionaire William J. Popejoy, who for five months in 1995 served as Orange County’s chief executive officer, has been named director of the California State Lottery by Gov. Pete Wilson.

Popejoy who also has served since 1991 as chairman of PacPro, a Santa Fe Springs-based packaging manufacturer will replace interim director Mary Ann Gilliard, who is leaving for a yet-to-be-determined law enforcement position in the Wilson administration.

Popejoy, 59, was hired by the Orange County Board of Supervisors in February of 1995 to help guide a debt recovery plan following the county’s bankruptcy declaration.

Five months after taking the job, Popejoy resigned, saying he was unable to work with the board. While he was not able to pull the county out of bankruptcy, Popejoy was credited with cutting budgets and redesigning some departments.

Popejoy’s annual salary as director of the California State Lottery will be $107,939. His appointment is subject to state Senate confirmation.

Don’t Like Spam

Pasadena-based Earthlink Network Inc., a growing Internet service provider, has filed suit against a Philadelphia company to keep it from targeting EarthLink’s members with unsolicited e-mail.

Earthlink is seeking an injunction against Cyber Promotions Inc. to halt the practice of so-called “spamming,” in which an individual or company sends unsolicited e-mail, usually a business pitch or advertisement, to a common group of Internet users.

The suit, filed April 7 in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeks to bar Cyber Promotions from spamming Earthlink users and seeks $3 million in damages.

Earthlink is also seeking a preliminary injunction against Cyber Promotions until the case is heard. A judge is expected to decide on May 6 whether to issue a preliminary injunction. EarthLink was unsuccessful in two previous attempts to gain a preliminary injunction.

“We have always had strict abuse policies in place,” said Earthlink CEO Charles Betty. “We’re taking this one step further to prove that we have absolutely no tolerance for Net abuse.”

Cyber Promotions spokesman Sanford Wallace said Earthlink’s suit is unfounded and is akin to blaming a telephone company for harassing phone calls.

Barbie Brouhaha

Thou shalt not take the name of Barbie in vain, Mattel Inc. told a collector’s magazine earlier this month.

Mattel filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the publishers of a Spokane, Wash.-based magazine for Barbie doll collectors. The suit accuses the quarterly publication, called Miller’s, of trademark infringement for using the doll’s name and image without permission.

Miller’s prints articles reviewing the various limited-edition Barbie series and lists going prices for collectible dolls. It is not licensed by Barbie-manufacturer Mattel, but it competes with another magazine called Barbie Bazaar that is. El Segundo-based Mattel reserves the right to review and reject all content in Barbie Bazaar before it is printed.

Miller’s is published by Dan and Barbara Miller from their home and has a circulation of about 40,000. Mattel claims the Millers marketed a song called “The Barbie Anthem” without permission, and printed articles containing disparaging remarks about the doll.

By Dan Turner, Daniel Taub and Ben Sullivan

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