Will the WWF take over Artisan Entertainment?

According to an article in the trade publication, “Daily Variety, ” Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation is in serious talk to buy-out Artisan Entertainment. According to Variety’s sources, the cost of the potential buyout at $150 million, a far cry from the $300 million-plus that Artisan was demanding after “Blair Witch” conquered the box office with a $146 million domestic gross.

Artisan has had trouble in the last year with its attempted IPO, which was looking to bring more than $100 million into the company. The IPO has since been put on hold and the value of the company has dropped significantly from 18 months ago when at least one offer was made for $250 million by Barry Diller to potentially unite Artisan with his USA Films.

That offer was summarily dismissed by the Artisan board, which thought it could garner more if it held out. In 2000, Artisan struggled theatrically with such underperformers as “Blair Witch 2” and “The Way of the Gun.” But Malin has been able to maintain a steady course for the company through its powerful video distribution division as well as its family home entertainment arm.

Artisan absolutely denies any discussions with McMahon and his wrestling maniacs. But the company, sources said, has been involved in lengthy discussions to handle video product for McMahon and the WWF. McMahon’s spokesman Gary Davis would only admit that the WWF is looking to expand into TV and film. The WWF already has a partnership with NBC and TNN on the XFL, which provides it with prime-time exposure for its struggling upstart football league.

An Artisan deal would provide a video distribution and theatrical production outfit for McMahon and the WWF.

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