My praise and contempt for CEO actions is pretty well-known around these parts. I've been running a weekly series looking at CEO gaffes for nearly 11 months now (with seemingly endless material, may I add), and recently I've begun highlighting incredible CEOs who deserve a pat on the back. Last year I even listed my top 10 CEOs of the year and my 10 worst CEOs of the year.
However, this year we're changing things up a bit, and we're putting the ball in your court! This year, the Motley Fool community is going to decide which CEO is the best of this year and which CEO should be banished to a distant island. Each week, for the remaining two weeks, I'll nominate one chief exec to each category. In total, you and your community members will have eight great CEOs and eight terrible ones to choose from when voting commences in November. For reference, here is last week's best-CEO nominee.
In the meantime, I encourage you to get the discussion started on the "CEO of the Week" board. Although I do have all CEOs hand-picked already, these selections are by no means set in stone. If you can offer me your top picks for best and worst CEO, as well as your reasoning, you may just find your nomination in the spotlight.
Without further ado, I give you the seventh nominee for CEO of the Year: Jon Feltheimer, CEO of Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE:LGF-A).
Why Jon Feltheimer?
- Striking a "killer" deal: I admit that I'll have to bite the bullet on this one. In spite of my skepticism about Feltheimer and Lions Gate's performance heading into 2012, he has done a marvelous job. It all began in January when Feltheimer orchestrated an unbeatable deal by agreeing to purchase Summit Entertainment, the independent studio responsible for the Twilight series, for $412.5 million. I consider this price to be an absolute steal, considering that movie ticket sales generated $2.5 billion in revenue from the first four movies, while TV rights, ticket sales, and home videos could generate an additional $1 billion in cash flow this year alone. Not to mention the fifth and final Twilight movie is yet to come out and should generate somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 million to $750 million, based on series averages. That's one heck of a deal for $412.5 million!
- Cashing in on two tween thrillers: Lions Gate hasn't always delivered winners, and that's one reason why I've generally been down on the stock for so long. The failure of 3-D movies to take off has hampered Lions Gate's deals with RealD (NYSE:RLD) and, to some extent, IMAX (NYSE:IMAX), but that has hardly been a blemish on its near-perfect 2012. Lions Gate combined the earning power of the Twilight series with the release of The Hunger Games in what could be the first of many years of strong cash flow. The Hunger Games is the third-highest grossing film of 2012 at $408 million, behind only Disney's (NYSE:DIS) The Avengers at $623 million and Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) The Dark Knight Rises at $447 million -- hardly bad company. With three additional Hunger Games films due out over the next three years, Lions Gate could be transforming into a major studio right before our eyes.
- Lucrative refinancing deal: Not only has Lions Gate been producing films capable of competing with the biggest industry players, but it also recently drew up a refinancing deal that's larger than just about anything we've seen in the entertainment industry since the recession. Lions Gate's previous revolving credit facility was $340 million, but Feltheimer negotiated a new $800 million loan that significantly reduced its interest rate, expands Lions Gate's production and acquisition capacity, and should save it millions a year in interest. The move prompted Standard & Poor's to upgrade its outlook on the company to "positive" from "stable."
- Stock performance: Lastly, Feltheimer's acquisition and refinancing actions led to a monstrous gain in 2012. Year to date, Lions Gate's share price has advanced 93% after its motion-picture revenue increased 111% over the previous year and it noted a $992 million film backlog in its latest quarterly report. In addition to a 13,000-film library, Lions Gate also owns the rights to popular TV shows Mad Men and Weeds. It has taken a long time, but shareholders are finally seeing the media diversity and blockbuster names they've been waiting for from Lions Gate and Feltheimer.
Is Jon Feltheimer the CEO of the year? That's up to you and the rest of the Motley Fool community to decide. In the meantime, come back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the next two weeks for the latest CEO nominations, and be sure to hit up the "CEO of the Week" board to voice your opinion to the community.
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Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. He loves giving credit when credit is due. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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