Warner Bros could be preparing for a merger, insiders claim

Warner Bros Discovery
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After an interesting couple of years scrapping films and making people very cross, insiders suggest Warner Bros boss David Zaslav could be preparing to sell the historic studio, Variety reports.

In the cut-throat world of corporate Hollywood, shake-ups to the major film studios aren’t unheard of – but they are rare.

The last seismic shift happened in 2019, when Disney bought out 20th Century Fox for $52.4bn (£41.3bn) and turned the “Big Six” into a “Big Five”.

In recent months, though, rumours have been circling that the five could soon become four – or even three – as one or more of Hollywood’s biggest players looks to merge or sell their assets to a one-time rival.

According to Variety, Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav is the latest to consider cashing his studio-sized cheque. Insiders point to the company’s surprising willingness to splash the cash on big deals of late, including a strategic partnership with Tom Cruise and the prospect of distributing Tarantino’s next film (The Movie Critic), as well as the conclusion of WarnerMedia and Discovery’s two-year lock-up period this April.

“The strategy at Warner Bros. right now and the reason they made some of these big star deals is they’re basically playing with other people’s money,” one insider told Variety. “They’re shopping for Quentin or Cruise with the notion they can use it as a shiny object that is going to be additive when Zaslav sells the company.”

It wasn’t so long ago that Warner Bros seemed to be eyeing up Paramount to add to its cinematic stable, but speculation around Zaslav’s planned future for the company has been doing the rounds for at least a few months. Last October, Variety alleged that some on the Warner Bros lot were convinced another company, most likely market leader Universal, would buy out the studio within the next few years.

Since then, Warners has had more hits than misses at the box office. It ended 2023 with the year’s highest-grossing film worldwide (Barbie, $1.45bn) and a pair of Christmas tentpoles (Wonka and Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom) which dominated cinemas in the festive season and beyond.

But Zaslav and his company never seem far from the headlines – and not, we presume, for the reasons they’d like. With the drama around the scrapping of finished films, most recently Looney Tunes tie-in Coyote Vs Acme, refusing to go away and the high-profile struggles of the DCEU rarely far from trade press front pages, it’s never a quiet day on the Warner Bros lot.

Whether this rumour turns into anything concrete is up to the whims of capitalist fortune. We’ll let you know if they blow particularly hard.

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