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Shareholders OK Lionsgate's purchase of Starz for $4.4 billion

Shareholders OK Lionsgate's purchase of Starz for $4.4 billion
Lionsgate Vice Chairman Michael Burns, left, and CEO Jon Feltheimer in 2010. (Ann Johansson / For The Times)

Lionsgate has won shareholder approval to acquire cable network Starz for $4.4 billion, the company said Thursday, ratifying one of the biggest studio deals this decade.

The cash-and-stock deal, first announced in June, was approved by 98% of votes from Lionsgate shareholders and 95% of votes from Starz shareholders, the company said. The merger has already received the greenlight from government regulators, the company said.

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Shareholder and regulatory approval had been expected by analysts.

The combination of Santa Monica-based Lionsgate, known for movies such as "The Hunger Games" and "La La Land," and Englewood, Co.-based Starz, known for shows including "Outlander," is seen as a bid to create a more formidable media competitor as both the film and pay-TV industries are under long-term pressure.

Lionsgate gets a TV distribution platform to offset the challenges of an unreliable box-office and home-video market. Starz could, in turn, have more access to premium content.

The logic of the agreement was partly reflected by another recent, much larger corporate media play — AT&T's bid to buy Time Warner Inc. for $85.4 billion. That pact, disclosed in October and awaiting regulatory hurdles, was also motivated by a desire to marry a big distribution network with a content production giant with assets including Warner Bros. Entertainment and HBO.

Under the terms of the Lionsgate deal, Chris Albrecht will continue to serve as president and chief executive of Starz and will report to Lionsgate Chief Executive Jon Feltheimer. As part of the combination, Starz's home entertainment and television distribution operations are being consolidated into Lionsgate's corresponding business units.

"Working together, we believe that the strategic opportunities are enormous, and we're pleased that our shareholders recognize the transformative potential of the transaction," Feltheimer and Lionsgate Vice Chairman Michael Burns said in a statement.

Approval of the deal was announced after the close of trading on Wall Street. Lionsgate shares rose $1.10, or 4.4%, to $26.09, while Starz's stock ticked up 59 cents, or 1.7%, to $35.52.

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

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