Top Gun Maverick

Source: Scott Garfield / Paramount Pictures

‘Top Gun: Maverick’

Paramount Global stock leapt 14% on Friday morning following speculation that David Ellison’s Skydance Media and private equity player RedBird Capital are mulling over a controlling stake in the media company.

While some Hollywood insiders have counselled it may be too soon to say whether Paramount Global, which has a $9.9bn market cap, will actually sell and who will buy, industry talk in the past week has centred on Skydance and RedBird making a play for National Amusements. 

The latter, run by Shari Redstone, owns a majority stake in Paramount Global, whose assets include Paramount Pictures, the struggling Paramount+ streaming platform, a stable of linear TV networks including CBS, the BET cable channel, and ad-supported platform Pluto TV.

Ellison has built Skydance into a Hollywood force, co-financing Paramount tentpoles like 2022 smash Top Gun: Maverick, and the Mission: Impossible and Star Trek franchises, financing its own slate of original features and TV shows, and launching its own animation division led by former Pixar guru John Lasseter.

Last month Paramount Global filed an executive change in control severance plan, which essentially ensures top executives are well compensated in the event of a sale.

Paramount Global has divested itself of two significant assets of late. In October it sold publishing house Simon & Schuster to private equity company KKK for $1.62bn. It also sold its stake in MMA promotor Bellator to Professional Fighters League for an undisclosed amount.

The transactions have fuelled speculation that Paramount Global might be preparing for a sale, although some analysts have indicated that may not be the case and suggested the company, which has held on to Showtime and incorporated that into the offering at Paramount+, might want to grow the streaming platform.

Separately, The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Paramount Global was in talks with Apple to offer a discounted, combined streaming bundle.

Shares climbed 14% to 17.19 amid talks of a takeover. Year-on-year they have dropped more than 11%.

Paramount Global, Skydance and RedBird Capital have not commented on the acquisition reports.