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TURNER REPORTEDLY IN DISCUSSIONS WITH MICROSOFT'S GATES
Published August 14, 1995
Turner Broadcasting is reportedly holding "serious discussions" with Microsoft about selling a $1B-$2B stake that would help Turner make a bid for CBS Inc., according to the L.A. TIMES. Jane Hall and Leslie Helm report that sources say Ted Turner and Microsoft Chair Bill Gates "met recently in the Seattle area along with several top executives of their companies to discuss their plans." IT'S ALL ABOUT CONTENT: Gates is "said to be interested in having access to video material and the brand names" of CNN and other TBS properties for use in its Microsoft Network. "Access to CNN news feeds would give Microsoft a continuing stream of fresh material" for MSN. In May, Microsoft signed an agreement with NBC to give it access to NBC programming (L.A. TIMES, 8/12). Part of the NBC deal will give MSN customers access to NBC Sports offerings -- including Olympics, the NFL, golf, NBA and Notre Dame football (INSIDE MEDIA, 8/2-9/5 issue). MINORITY INVESTMENT, BIG PULL: TCI, which has a 21% stake in TBS, is said to be supportive of Turner's pursuit of CBS. TCI recently paid $125M for a 20% investment in the Microsoft Network. Hall and Helm note, "The investment by Gates, plus the backing of [TCI Chair John] Malone would strengthen Turner's hand in a bid for CBS" (L.A. TIMES, 8/12). In this morning's N.Y. TIMES, Geraldine Fabrikant writes "some analysts assume it was Mr. Malone who brought Mr. Turner and Mr. Gates together" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/14). However, Time Warner, which owns 19% of TBS, has been opposed to Turner's quest to buy a network, and holds three seats on Turner's board. Hall and Helm write, "It is unclear whether Time Warner could block an investment by Gates in Turner Broadcasting." Sources say Microsoft's involvement is "not a direct attempt by Gates to by Time Warner's stake in Turner" (L.A. TIMES, 8/12). LONE WOLF: Westinghouse plans "to go solo" in its $5.4B bid for CBS, with "no active negotiations with potential partners," according to this morning's N.Y. POST. A report by BLOOMBERG BUSINESS NEWS notes that "contrary to media speculation, Westinghouse didn't agree to buy CBS with the notion that it needed or even wanted a partner" (N.Y. POST, 8/14). Turner and Malone have reportedly talked with Westinghouse Chair Michael Jordan, according to the latest BUSINESS WEEK. For such a deal to work, Turner would have to buy out Time Warner's stake -- valued at $1.2B -- for $1.6B. However, "most on Wall Street think it's unlikely" Turner will be successful because of the $150M breakup clause in Westinghouse's deal and because CBS Chair Laurence Tisch "is no Turner fan" (BUSINESS WEEK, 8/21 issue).