With a high-stakes 2013 looming in which its first slate of in-house developed films will be released, Legendary Entertainment has raised $443 million in new equity financing, the company announced Tuesday.
The deal gives asset management and financial planning giant Waddell & Reed Financial, Inc. a stake of just under 20% in Legendary and values the production company at about $2.5 billion, according to a person familiar with the structure of the financing but not authorized to speak publicly. Chairman Thomas Tull retains majority control of the Burbank-based company.
The new financing comes on top of Legendary's deal in March that included $150 million of debt and $128 million of equity and the closing of a $700-million credit facility last year.
Speaking at investor conferences this fall sponsored by Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, Tull added to growing speculation in Hollywood that he was looking to raise money or potentially preparing for an initial public offering.Ever since he gained tighter control of the company in a buyout of many of his original investors in late 2010, Tull has made a series of moves that have strengthened Legendary's balance sheet and prepared it for a more aggressive, independent business plan.
After years of co-financing movies produced by its studio partner Warner Bros., Legendary next year has several projects on its slate for which it is providing the majority of financing. They include director Guillermo del Toro's big budget monster vs. robots film "Pacific Rim," fantasy tale "Seventh Son" and Jackie Robinson biopic "42."
A reboot of "Godzilla" is set for 2014 and a film based on the video game "Warcraft" is in development.
Legendary has also launched a new comic book publishing business.
However some of its other efforts have fizzled, including aborted attempts to start television and digital divisions. In addition, the financing for a joint venture film production company in China called Legendary East fell apart last year and has not yet been restored.
In a statement, Legendary said it plans to use the new funds for growth and working capital in its movie and publishing businesses as well as to "build out further opportunities" in digital, television and merchandise.
Along with its own movies, which Warner Bros. is releasing, Legendary is investing in several other films at that studio next year, including "Man of Steel," "The Hangover Part III," "Jack the Giant Slayer" and "300: Rise of an Empire."
Legendary's deal with Warner, which began in 2005, expires at the end of 2013. The two companies are not expected to seriously begin renewal talks until Warner settles on a new chairman to replace Barry Meyer, who is set to retire next year.ALSO: