Shari Redstone, the daughter of media mogul Sumner Redstone, spent much of the 2010s fighting to keep control of the Paramount media empire. Now the 69-year-old Redstone, who is the controlling shareholder of Paramount Global, is considering selling her stake to Skydance Media, the production company behind Top Gun: Maverick, according to Puck and the New York Times.
This would be a massive step for Paramount, a legacy media company that has struggled to keep up with larger competitors in the streaming wars. Paramount, which owns the eponymous movie studio, a host of cable channels including Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, and CBS, has already offloaded several major assets in the past year, including publisher Simon & Schuster and MMA league Bellator, in big-money deals.
Skydance was founded by David Ellison, the son of billionaire Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison, in 2006. It’s currently backed by RedBird Capital, a private equity firm with a history of investing in media and sports. One possibility for the deal would be for the two prospective buyers—Skydance and RedBird— to take a stake in National Amusements, the Redstone-led holding company that controls Paramount Global, according to Puck. Rather than investing directly in Paramount, RedBird and Skydance would acquire Sumner’s shares in National Amusements.
National Amusements owns about 77% of voting Class A Common stock and just under 10% of non-voting stock in Paramount. So while Redstone may not be the largest financial stakeholder—that honor falls to Warren Buffett—she effectively has a controlling interest in Paramount.
Paramount, RedBird, and National Amusements declined to comment. Skydance Media did not respond to a request for comment.
Skydance already works with Paramount, having co-produced Top Gun: Maverick, which made over $1 billion at the global box office, as well as multiple Mission Impossible movies. RedBird, helmed by former Goldman Sachs banker Gerry Cardinale, is one of the most active players in the media sector. Last month, RedBird, through a joint venture with the Abu Dhabi-based International Media Investments, launched a bid to acquire the U.K. newspaper the Daily Telegraph. Paramount and RedBird also have a connection through their respective sports investments. RedBird is the owner of Italian soccer team AC Milan, which Paramount+ owns the U.S. broadcast rights to.
A possible deal is still in its earliest stages. Those involved in negotiations had signed NDAs but there was no official dealbook yet, according to Puck. The New York Times reports that even though the process has started, a deal is not certain.
A major reversal amid a streaming slump
Letting go of Paramount would be a massive step for Redstone, who had fought to keep control of the media conglomerate in 2016; and for the entertainment industry as a whole, kicking off what could be a spree of sales and acquisitions. Legacy media companies like Paramount have been trying to break into streaming and catch up to Netflix, but that decision has yielded only partial results and massive losses. Last quarter Paramount lost $238 million on its streaming service, Paramount+, a number that was actually considered welcome news because it was down from $343 million in the same quarter in 2022.
Paramount has been offloading major parts of the company in its effort to slim down its holdings. In October, investment firm KKR bought the publisher Simon & Schuster from Paramount for $1.6 billion. A few weeks later, in November, Paramount sold off MMA league Bellator to the Professional Fighters League for a rumored $500 million.
Old-school media companies that still own linear TV channels are also under growing pressure to sell them off, as cable television viewership continues to decline.
Disney was reportedly interested in selling a package of its television channels, including ABC, with media mogul Byron Allen (whose Allen Media Group owns The Weather Channel) ready to bid $10 billion for them, according to Bloomberg. (Disney CEO Bob Iger has since indicated the company may not be looking to sell.) Other major companies like Warner Bros. Discovery and Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, are rumored to be looking for deals—possibly even with each other, according to an Axios report.
The rumors of a sale sent Paramount’s stock shooting up 14% on Monday, a sign that investors would welcome the sale of a company that has been struggling as of late. Paramount Global is loaded with about $15 billion in long-term debt as it languishes in the streaming wars. Its stock price has fallen nearly 50% over the last two years. Executives at Paramount, including CEO Bob Bakish, reportedly renegotiated their compensation packages to include a golden parachute clause in case of a change of ownership.