Monday, May 27, 2024

Berkshire Hathaway Sold Paramount Stock, Lost ‘Quite a Bit’

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Billionaire Warren Buffett revealed that his investment company, Berkshire Hathaway, offloaded its shares in Paramount — and it’ll cost them.

During the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Saturday, Buffett took responsibility for selling Berkshire’s stake in the entertainment company.

“I was 100% responsible for the Paramount decision,” Buffett told attendees. “It was 100% my decision, and we’ve sold it all, and we lost quite a bit of money. That happens in this business.”

Saturday’s meeting marked Buffett’s first Annual Shareholder meeting without Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, who passed away in November last year.

Related: Paramount Is Laying Off Hundreds of Employees Just Days After ‘Blockbuster’ Super Bowl LVIII Success

In May 2022, Buffett and Berkshire purchased a $2.6 billion stake in Paramount and more in November later that year, which put the company’s total stock holding at over 91 million shares. This made Berkshire the largest non-voting shareholder of the company. At the time of purchase, the shares were estimated to be worth around $1.7 billion.

According to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Berkshire Hathaway owned 63.3 million Class B shares at the end of Q4 2023 as the company began offloading its stake. The shares were worth around $800 million at the time.

Warren Buffett makes his way to a morning session at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 13, 2023 in Sun Valley, Idaho (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

“Owning Paramount made me think even deeper, but I certainly looked harder about the whole question of what people do with their leisure time and what the governing principles are of running an entertainment business of any sort, whether it’s sports or movies or whatever it might be,” Buffett said during Saturday’s meeting. “I think I’m smarter now than I was a couple years ago, but I also think I’m poorer because I acquired the knowledge in the manner I did.”

Paramount, the parent company of CBS, Nickelodeon, and MTV, has had a rocky two years due to tough competition in the streaming industry and the turn away from traditional cable media.

Last year, the company dramatically slashed its dividend, which Buffett described as “not good news.”

Paramount laid off roughly 800 employees in February despite the “blockbuster” streaming success of Super Bowl LVIII as the company looks to “return the company to earnings growth.”

Last week, Paramount CEO Bob Bakish was ousted, placing executives Chris McCarthy, George Cheeks, and Brian Robbins in a position to temporarily share the role as an “Office of the CEO.”

Related: Read Warren Buffett’s Annual Letter to Berkshire Shareholders

Then, days later, Sony Pictures and Apollo Global Management reportedly sent a joint letter to Paramount Group expressing interest in purchasing the company in a joint deal for $26 billion.

The offer comes amid a separate request, from Skydance Media to Paramount’s special committee, to recommend a bid for Skydance to acquire the company from the majority shareholder, Shari Redstone.

Meanwhile, Paramount reported a strong Q1 2024, backed by a 51% year-over-year revenue increase on Paramount+ and record-breaking viewership numbers for Super Bowl LVIII — the most viewed Super Bowl of all time.

“It was a record-setting quarter for Paramount+ in engagement and revenue, and in the DTC segment as we continued to substantially narrow streaming losses,” said Paramount CFO Naveen Chopra in an earnings release last week. “As we look ahead, we remain focused on execution and transforming our cost base to best position Paramount for the future.”

Paramount has not publicly commented on the potential bids or acquisitions. The company was down over 20% in one year as of Monday afternoon.



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