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DENVER-Local billionaire Philip F. Anschutz, who made fortunes in oil, real estate, railroads and telecommunications, affirmed his status as the nation’s No. 1 movie theater mogul by taking control of the California-based Edwards Theatres chain. Federal Judge Lynne Riddle, as expected approved the bankruptcy reorganization of the Newport Beach-based movie chain.

Creditors approved the plan a month ago.

Anschutz and his investment group will pay 90 cents on the dollar immediately to people who want their money now. Or they can wait seven years and collect 100%.

The total debt of the 699-screen chain is estimated between $272 million and $350 million. Edwards will pay the money it owes through a $56 million cash infusion from outside sources, as well as revenues from ongoing operations.

The Edwards family is turning over the company to Anschutz and his minority partner, Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital Management. Anschutz and Oaktree will determine what to do with the company.

Some analysts speculate Anschutz may merge it with his other two theater chains — Denver-based United Artists and Knoxville, TN-based Regal Cinema, the nation’s largest chain.

As part of the reorganization plan, the Edwards family, which owned their namesake company for 70 years, receives up to 49% of the stock and almost $5 million in cash. Family officials emphasize they are not going away and are extremely pleased that it can move forward in better financial shape.

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