He has fought Blofeld and defeated Scaramanga but James Bond could be heading for his most dramatic assignment yet: a bidding war.
The studio behind the 007 franchise is considering a sale of its back catalogue – and possibly the rights to produce future films – for around £4billion.
MGM hopes to spark a battle that could interest streaming services such as Amazon Prime.
Its biggest asset is the James Bond franchise – which it shares with the Broccoli family, who co-own the copyright. Interest in Bond spiked in October after the death of Sir Sean Connery, the first and, many would argue, the best actor to play the role.
MGM has also produced or distributed films such as the Rocky franchise, Dances With Wolves and The Silence of The Lambs, as well as TV shows including The Handmaid’s Tale. It has toyed with a sale before but the pandemic and growth in the use of streaming services has made it think that this time they could cash in, with private equity investors a possible rival to the streaming giants in a bidding battle.
MGM, which has a film library of 4,000 titles and more than 17,000 hours of television programmes, has already been the subject of speculation, with Apple and Amazon touted as potential buyers.
On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the studio – whose biggest shareholder is a New York hedge fund – has recruited Morgan Stanley and LionTree LLC to advise on the process of a formal sale.
A source close to the company told the newspaper: ‘MGM is hopeful the process will generate interest beyond Hollywood’s traditional players.’ US TV networks have spent billions of dollars this year for content to promote their own streaming services to rival Netflix and Hulu.
NBCUniversal splashed £372million to reclaim The Office and WarnerMedia paid £316million to get back Friends for HBO Max.
The Bond franchise suffered a setback this year with the repeated delays to the latest film, No Time To Die – the final outing with Daniel Craig as 007.
It was due to be released in April but that has now been postponed by at least a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. In October, reports claimed that the Broccoli family were considering selling the rights to stream the movie for a year to either Netflix or Apple for £450million.
Instead they hung on for a traditional theatrical release, partly because they did not want to jeopardise future releases in cinemas.
Neither MGM nor Eon Productions, the Broccoli-owned company which produces the Bond films, were available for comment.