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Silicon Valley and Hollywood worlds collide as David Ellison bids for Paramount :

#DavidEllison, 41, would not be the first #rich guy to arrive in Hollywood with a fat bank account and dreams of making movies, though the son of billionaire Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) founder Larry Ellison boasts the rarest of attributes for a budding media mogul: a Silicon Valley pedigree.

In an industry where many get their start fetching coffee or moving props, Ellison spent summers writing computer code for his father’s software company and getting insights on the movie business from Pixar Animation Studios co-founder Steve Jobs. Those geek sensibilities will come in handy if he succeeds in his bid to take over Paramount Global, a storied studio whose fortunes have been upended by technological change.

Ellison is orchestrating a multi-step transaction that would result in the merger of his independent studio, Skydance Media, with Paramount. Skydance entered into a 30-day exclusive negotiation with a special committee of the Paramount board, though as with any talks, a deal is not assured.

If Paramount’s board recommends the merger, it would present an opportunity for Ellison to revitalize the venerable studio, whose library of 1,000 films includes classics like “Star Trek,” “The Godfather” and “Indiana Jones,” and whose television assets include broadcaster CBS and cable networks MTV and Nickelodeon. 

Ellison would likely restructure the company to deliver the highest-quality content and recalibrate the Paramount+ streaming service in a way that differentiates it from its rivals, according to one person familiar with Skydance’s strategy.

“One of the things that people are under-estimating … is his sense of tech, compared to some of the other guys, … maybe with his father’s help or just his upbringing,” said Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel. “What they do with Paramount+ and all that other stuff I think will be refreshing.”

Skydance also is seeking to buy National Amusements, the Redstone family’s holding company, which owns 77% of Paramount’s class-A voting stock. That deal is contingent upon Paramount agreeing to acquire Skydance in an all-stock transaction valued at $5 billion.

Ellison demonstrated an appetite for risk-taking from an early age, learning to fly when he was 13 with his father, who took lessons with him. By the age of 16, David Ellison was flying an Extra 300, a high-performance aerobatic plane. 

The studio’s name takes its inspiration from Ellison’s love of stunt flying, also known as “skydancing.”

Ellison and his sister, Megan, were raised by their mother, Barbara Boothe, who instilled in them a strong work ethic (they received a $5 weekly allowance for performing chores) and a love of film. Every weekend, they watched movies, he has told people.

Ellison enrolled in Pepperdine University to study business, but transferred to the University of California’s film school. A GQ magazine profile of Ellison in 2015 noted that sister Megan served as a boom operator on her brother’s senior-thesis movie. In 2011, she founded her own studio, Annapurna Pictures, which backed such Oscar-nominated films as “Zero Dark Thirty” and “American Hustle.”

In 2006, Ellison dropped out of school to finance “Flyboys,” a World War I movie about fighter pilots starring James Franco and Ellison. The film flopped and another project, “Northern Lights,” failed to take flight.

Ellison then sought another tack. Skydance #struck a four-year deal with Paramount Pictures that led to Ellison’s first #success, the Coen brothers’ 2010 remake of the western “True Grit,” which garnered 10 Oscar nominations. Other box office triumphs have followed, including “World War Z,” “Star Trek,” a trio of “Mission: Impossible” films and “Top Gun: Maverick.”


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