Kirk Kerkorian, the West Coast financier, yesterday made a surprise bid for control of Columbia Pictures Industries Inc., the New York-based film company of which he already holds 24 percent.
Columbia immediately rejected the Kerkorian bid. And last night in Los Angeles Kerkorian's attorney, Steve Silbert, said Kerkorian hadn't decided on his next move.
"Now we'll have to decide what to do. Obviously, you can't have an agreement with only one party at the table," said Silbert.
Kerkorian also owns 47 percent of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Film Co., along with his interest in Columbia, through his wholly owned investment company, Tracinda Corp.
Kerkorian's bid for Columbia was in two stages.
Yesterday morning, MGM Film Co. announced that it was seeking to merge with Columbia through an exchange of stock.
The MGM Film Co. press release also said that "Mr. Kerkorian told MGM that, if the MGM proposal is not effectuated, it is his present intention to seek control of Columbia, possibly through Tracinda, at such a time as he is able to do so."
In 1978, Kerkorian assured the management of Columbia that he would not raise his interest in the film company to above 25 1/2 percent at least until 1982.
Without offering specifics, Kerkorian in a filing yesterday with the Securities and Exchange Commission said, "Events have transpired which warrant termination of the agreement."
But most observers of the film industry concluded that Kerkorian decided to scuttle the agreement because he was concerned that a new securities offering by Columbia will dilute his holdings in the company.
Columbia President Francis T. Vincent Jr. said: "For two years, Kerkorian has been trying to get out from under the agreement."
"Kerkorian's latest attempt to control Columbia is another outrageous assault calculated to interfere with Columbia's proposed public offering," said Vincent.
The financier also could face a problem with the Justice Department's antitrust division.
In 1978, the government went to court to challenge his purchase of Columbia stock at the same time he owned 47 percent of MGM. But a judge dismissed the case after hearing the evidence.
On Wall Street, analysts who follow the entertainment industry said that Kerkorian's offer was too vague to tell whether it would benefit Columbia shareholders.
One of the two offers presented to the Columbia management was a merger of Columbia into MGM Film Co. for 55 million shares of MGM Film Co. stock.
Alternatively, Kerkorian offered to purchase about 1.25 million shares of Columbia stock.
The company now is offering a new issue of debentures, which are convertible to common stock at a set price. Kerkorian proposes that he buy all this stock.
In a press release, Kerkorian's attorney Silbert said the financier would buy $50 million worth of Columbia common stock at the conversion rate, "thereby saving Columbia shareholders $4 million to $5 million a year in interest expenses and several million dollars of underwriting expenses, most of which would be paid to a company headed by a Columbia director."
Kerkorian was referring to Allen & Co., the New York investment banking house that is managing the public offering of the Columbia debentures. Herbert A. Allen, president of Allen & Co., is on the Columbia board and a major shareholder in the company.
In June, MGM was split into two separate companies -- MGM Film Co. and MGM Grand Hotels Inc. Kerkorian owns 50 percent of MGM Grand Hotels.