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Lionsgate sells 6.8% stake to John Malone's Liberty Global and Discovery

Billionaire John Malone continues to circle Lionsgate.

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., the parent of the Santa Monica television and film studio, said Tuesday that it was selling 6.8% of its shares to two companies: Discovery Communications and Liberty Global.

Malone holds a significant stake in both Discovery and Liberty Global.

Discovery and Liberty Global each will pay about $195 million for a 3.4% stake in Lions Gate, according to the companies.

In addition, Discovery and Liberty Global will enter into separate licensing agreements with Lionsgate to secure the rights to some of studio's television series and movies.

Lionsgate has established itself as a programming powerhouse with such TV series as "Mad Men" for AMC and "Orange is the New Black" for Netflix. It boasts blockbuster movies including "The Hunger Games" franchise.

The latest installment, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2," with Jennifer Lawrence, is set for release Nov. 20.

Discovery, a cable TV powerhouse in the U.S., has been looking to diversify its programming line-up with more scripted programming. The company has struggled with ratings declines at some of its core networks.

In addition, Lionsgate has been eager to expand its offerings by producing more nonfiction TV programming, which has long been Discovery's bread and butter.

Malone holds a 21% voting interest in Discovery.

The entrance of Discovery and Liberty Global, an international cable TV provider in 14 countries, thickens the plot surrounding the ownership of Lionsgate. 

Earlier this year, Malone acquired a minority stake in Lionsgate through a stock swap with the premium cable service Starz, which Malone also backs. Last summer, Malone hinted that a future tie-up between Starz and Lionsgate was possible. Sources have said that those two companies have held merger talks but the rich valuations of both firms has complicated the deal making.

As part of Tuesday's deal, Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav and Liberty Global Chief Executive Mike Fries will join Lions Gate's board of directors.

Liberty Global and Discovery said they would acquire the 10 million shares in Lions Gate that are currently held by funds affiliated with Mark Rachesky's MHR Fund Management. Rachesky has been Lions Gate's largest shareholder, but he has been looking to slowly unwind his interest in the media company.

The share purchase was expected to be complete on Tuesday.

LionTree Advisors acted as the financial advisor to Discovery and Liberty Global.

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

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