MTM Entertainment, the television production company founded in 1970 by actress Mary Tyler Moore and her then-husband Grant Tinker, reportedly is being sold to a small British television production firm called Television South for about $325 million.
Neither MTM nor Television South (TVS) would confirm the deal, which was reported Friday by the Financial Times of London. "The company cannot comment on speculation or rumor," a spokesman for Studio City-based MTM said Friday.
TVS Chief Executive James Gatward is expected to make a statement about the sale at a press conference in London next Wednesday, according to the Financial Times, which reported that the deal was struck Thursday morning following all-night negotiations. Trading in TVS shares on the London Stock Exchange was halted Thursday.
Price Called Fair
The newspaper said TVS--whose productions are aired on Britain's two-channel national commercial network, Independent Television--will finance the purchase by issuing stock underwritten by a British merchant bank.
MTM is privately held by Moore, who is a director of the company; her former personal manager, Arthur Price; Mel D. Blumenthal, and Thomas E. Palmieri Jr. Former MTM President Tinker left the company in 1981 to become chairman and chief executive of NBC.
In August, 1987, MTM announced plans to issue an initial public offering of 4 million, or 22%, of its 18 million common shares. At the time, the company estimated that the initial offering price would be between $25 and $28 a share, which valued the company at about $450 million. MTM withdrew its offering last October, however, following the stock market crash.
According to a prospectus issued for the initial offering, MTM had after-tax profit of $26.1 million in 1987 on $163.1 million in revenue, down from $30.6 million in profit on $137.2 million in revenue in 1986.
Lisbeth R. Barron, an analyst with the New York investment firm of Balis Zorn Gerard Inc., said the reported $325-million selling price "sounds fair, especially since the dollar has been so weak," compared to the British pound.
At the time of MTM's proposed initial offering last year, "we determined that the price they were asking for the stock was high," Barron said. "I think our estimates were $18 a share, which would have valued the company at between $320 million and $360 million."
For its money, TVS will get a library containing some of the most popular and critically acclaimed shows in the history of American television. Beginning with the original "Mary Tyler Moore Show" in 1970, the company scored a string of hits--"The Bob Newhart Show," "Lou Grant," "Rhoda," "Remington Steele," "Hill Street Blues" and "St. Elsewhere," to name a few.
Under Tinker, the company became known for developing some of television's brightest writers and producers, including James L. Brooks, who won a Best Picture Oscar in 1983 for the movie "Terms of Endearment," and Steven Bochco, co-creator of "Hill Street Blues" and "L.A. Law."
Along the way, MTM won more Emmy awards for programming than any other independent company--80 in all, including 28 for "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," 21 for "Hill Street Blues" and 16 for "Lou Grant." In 1981, MTM productions accounted for two of the three winning scripts and four of the nine finalists for the Humanitas Prizes, which are awarded each year to the prime-time television programs judged to "most fully communicate human values."
The company has not fared as well since Tinker's departure, however. It currently has only one program airing on the networks, "Newhart" on CBS, with two new series set for the fall, including yet another Mary Tyler Moore show on NBC. The actress' last three series--"Mary," a variety show in 1978, "The Mary Tyler Moore Hour" in 1979 and the situation comedy "Mary" in 1985--all bombed.
MTM: A PLOT SYNOPSIS
The Mary Tyler Moore Show 1970-1977
The Bob Newhart Show 1972-1978
Lou Grant 1977-1982
WKRP in Cincinnati 1978-1982
The White Shadow 1978-1981
Hill Street Blues 1981-1987
Remington Steele 1982-1987
St. Elsewhere 1982-1988
The Texas Wheelers 1974
The Bob Crane Show 1975
The Tony Randall Show 1976-1977
The Betty White Show 1977-1978
Mary Sept.-Oct., 1978
The Mary Tyler Moore Hour Mar.-June, 1979
Bay Cities Blues Oct.-Nov., 1983
Beverly Hills Buntz 1987-1988
Eisenhower & Lutz 1988