Dumb Money No More: How David Ellison Became a Hollywood High Flier

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The equity deal with RedBird and CJ Entertainment valued Skydance at about $2.3 billion. At its current pace of growth — revenue is expected to increase more than 40 percent this year compared with last, the company said — Skydance could be worth $5 billion or more in a few years. Mr. Ellison would most likely pursue a sale or an initial public offering at that point.

Skydance could quickly become an acquisition target. After Amazon’s $8.45 billion purchase of MGM, content engines with access to established intellectual property, Skydance included, are hot prospects. Even if Skydance parts ways with Paramount next year, the expiring deal gives Skydance an incredible perk: the continuing right to invest in the Paramount franchises with which Skydance is already involved. “Star Trek.” “Mission: Impossible.” “Jack Ryan.” “G.I. Joe.” “Top Gun.”

Comcast, which needs to boost its Peacock streaming service, could be a buyer. So could Apple, which considered picking up MGM. This spring, Skydance received feelers from a special-purpose acquisition corporation, or SPAC, led by Kevin A. Mayer, Disney’s former streaming chief.

“It’s true that we have had some interesting conversations lately, but our growth curve is still significant and if we keep working hard and stay adaptive that should afford us a lot of optionality in the future,” Mr. Ellison said, sounding more like an M.B.A. graduate than a budding entertainment tycoon.

Skydance has wide-ranging expansion plans. Amy Hennig, a former senior creative executive at Electronic Arts, is building a video game division. Another department focuses on virtual-reality content. Mr. Ellison recently hired Luis Fernández, a 20-year Disney veteran, to start a consumer products business. But Skydance’s future rests on scripted content and the degree to which it can create pay-dirt movie and television franchises out of whole cloth, as it appears to have done with “The Old Guard.”

Some people in Hollywood remain skeptical that Skydance has the creative expertise to pull it off. Mr. Ellison and his team have excelled at putting projects together (29 films and television series sold to streaming services in two years). But execution — quality — has been inconsistent. And quality matters: The Skydance-made “6 Underground,” an action comedy directed by Michael Bay, drew views from a blockbuster 83 million Netflix accounts in late 2019. But the movie also received less-than-stellar reviews, lessening Netflix’s interest in a sequel.

A stream of well-reviewed original hits would force Hollywood to finally take Mr. Ellison seriously as a creative power.

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