Exclusive: China's Wanda shows interest in Viacom's Paramount - sources

Wed Jul 13, 2016 4:38pm EDT
 
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By Liana B. Baker and Jessica Toonkel

(Reuters) - Chinese real estate and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group has held talks with Viacom Inc about acquiring a minority stake in its Paramount Pictures unit, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Wanda's interest adds new urgency to deliberations over Paramount's future, which has become the flashpoint of a bitter row between Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman and the company's controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone. Wanda, which bought production company Legendary Entertainment in January, has been trying to expand its U.S. movie business.

Redstone has so far opposed the sale, which is not possible without his consent. Other parties besides Wanda have also expressed an interest in Paramount, and there is no certainty any deal will be reached, the people said this week.

The sources asked not to be identified because the matter is not public. Viacom declined to comment, while Wanda did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this year, Wanda invested in Paramount's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" sequel.

If the two parties did agree to a deal, it would likely become the next flashpoint in the long-running battle for control of Sumner Redstone's $40 billion media empire.

The Paramount deal has been championed by Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman, who is seeking to sell a 49 percent stake in the movie studio but opposed by 93-year-old Redstone, who owns 80 percent of Viacom and CBS Corp.

It is not clear that Redstone and his daughter Shari Redstone would agree to a deal if one was struck.   Continued...

 
The company logo of Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties Co Ltd is displayed at a news conference on the company's annual results in Hong Kong, China March 24, 2016.  REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo