It seems there may be a barbarian at the gate in Santa Monica, as former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin private equity fund Liberty Strategic Capital has acquired a significant 5.5 percent stake in Lionsgate.
The news was revealed on Tuesday afternoon in an SEC filing that showed that Liberty Capital bought more than 4.5 million shares of the studio over the course of several dozen transactions between Aug. 10 and Aug. 30. They were bought on the open market at a price between just over $7 a share to $7.46, thereby totaling roughly $30.8 million.
The timing of the move is interesting, as Liberty appears to be excited about Lionsgate’s plan to spin off Starz, as it’s much more interested in the studio than the cable network. That transaction is now expected to be completed early next year due to Hollywood’s ongoing strikes.
Mnuchin is no stranger to the film business, as he helped oversee a major financing deal with Warner Bros. that saw RatPac-Dune Entertainment, his partnership with Brett Ratner and James Packer, finance part of WB’s slate. Under that arrangement, he put money into Dunkirk and Wonder Woman, and he also received a credit on Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Dune Capital also had a slate financing deal with Fox, where it backed movies such as Black Swan, 127 Hours, The Devil Wears Prada, and Avatar. Mnuchin also served as co-chairman of Relativity Media, though he left before the company was forced to declare bankruptcy.
From February 2017 to January 2021, Mnuchin served as the Secretary of the Treasury under former President Donald Trump, during which time he mostly kept his distance from Hollywood. After Trump was voted out of office, Mnuchin leaned on his background as a former banker at Goldman Sachs to raise $2.5 billion in order to launch Liberty Strategic Capital, which is focused on technology, financial services, and “new content.”
There is no indication that a hostile takeover is in the offing, but it’s possible that Liberty could be planning to acquire a larger stake once Lionsgate separates itself from Starz. Either way, stay tuned, as Lionsgate’s stock climbed 5 percent on Tuesday’s news about the studio’s new investor.