By Lucy Cohen Blatter
Last month, almost 10 years to the day he left MGM, international TV executive extraordinaire Gary Marenzi went back to the roaring company to act as co-president of Worldwide Television. In an era when executives move between companies faster than you can say “consolidation,” Marenzi has returned to his roots and sees a bright future ahead of him.
When asked what his long and short-term goals are for MGM, Marenzi said there are many. “I’d like to reassure buyers that the spirit of MGM lives on. People in the industry know us as delivering on what we promise. One of the things I was most proud of during my first tenure here was hiring the right people who were both good for our clients to do deals with and good to work with. I look around and see a lot of the same faces from then,” he said. “Hopefully we will be bringing on additional team members as well,” he added.
Marenzi is also gearing up to acquire and produce quality programs through co-management of the MGM catalog with Jim Packer, his co-president.
Additionally, working with Bruce Tuchman, executive vp of MGM networks, he’ll facilitate licensing deals for MGM Channels worldwide.
Marenzi described the MGM catalog as “an embarrassment of riches,” including the James Bond, Pink Panther and Rocky franchises. “Movies are a big priority for us, and we will continue to help our clients program them. We take special care to help our clients build their programming, which is something not everyone does.” On the TV side, Marenzi predicted that the Stargate franchise “has a lot of life left in it.”
When it comes to being a producer-distributor Marenzi described MGM as the best of both worlds. “A lot of the studios have more product than they know what to do with. We have resources and brand recognition that rival the studios, but can move faster than them,” he said.
And Marenzi certainly knows how the studios work. Immediately after leaving MGM, he went on to become president of International Television for Paramount (now CBS Paramount), where he stayed until 2004. After the company was taken over by CBS, Marenzi started his own consulting firm known as Marenzi & Associates, where he worked with venture capitalists and private equity firms, advising them on the domestic and international TV businesses. In 2006 he also became president of Ensequence, Inc., an interactive TV company, where he “got to know more about new technologies and the new media business,” he said. “Ironically, the last two and a half years helped make me a better executive. I am more prepared to do business with new technologies and new companies. Let’s face it, in today’s environment, a company you’ve never heard of in January could be the biggest thing by June,” he said.
While he looks back fondly on his first stint at MGM (from 1992-1997), Marenzi acknowledges that it was a different animal back then. “This time around MGM is a well-funded company with good ownership,” he said. “Back then it was owned by Credit Lyonnais, and we all knew that they would have to sell it [due to international regulations]. There was always a sword of Damocles hanging over us.” Today, the ownership is as follows: Providence Equity Partners (29 percent), TPG (21 percent), Sony Corporation of America (20 percent), Comcast (20 percent), DLJ Merchant Banking Partners (7 percent) and Quadrangle Group (3 percent). “Now it feels like we’re building a business for the long term,” Marenzi said. “The owners want to grow the business, and that brings about both stability and a sense of entrepreneurialism.”