Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., (www.intermat.tv)
a television company which executive produces programs and consults
with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc.
is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television
in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the
Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery
Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery
Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted
Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation
Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.
December 7, 2006
The return of Darth Vadar, who finally gets his Death Star
Today, as I often do, I picked up the New York Times to read
on the train going down to the city though I didnt
get as much read as I had anticipated as, with the wonders
of my air card, I worked most of the way, catching up on e-mails
and chatting with someone over in the U.K. on my cell phone.
Moments like that remind me how much of a science fiction
world we live in; the stuff of sci fi stories when I was a
boy, are now the tools of my adulthood.
I did take a pause long enough to look at the business section.
In the far right column was the news that Rupert Murdoch,
the mogul who oversees the News Corp Empire [Fox] had traded
assets to John Malone in exchange for Malone giving back to
Murdoch his share in News Corp. The assets shed by Murdoch
included Direct TV, the satellite behemoth Rupert bought just
a few years ago from G.M.
Back in the day, John Malone found himself on the cover of
Business Week magazine, personified as the Darth Vadar
of cable television, the man who made all the puppets move
and, indeed, that seemed to be the way it was. Then
Malone sold his company, TCI, to AT&T and seemed to flounder
about the media pool, not quite making anything work with
the old black magic he used to have.
Its not that he didnt stir up the dust here and
there. He took his interests in QVC, Starz Pay Service and
his 50% stake in Discovery Communications into a publicly
traded holding company that too has seemed to flounder.
He also acquired a pretty significant stake in News Corp.,
a move that got Rupert all riled up, so riled up he got the
company to adopt a poison pill clause to prevent
Malone from seizing control. It was so onerous it gave Ruperts
shareholders dyspepsia and there was just a lot of background
noise that Murdoch didnt need. So sometime after Malone
said something like: half the shareholders are afraid Rupert
will die and the other half hope he wont, Murdoch set
out to find a way to get himself free of his irksome friend.
It took two years and I never doubted it would happen. Today
a deal was agreed upon which gives our Darth Vadar character
his Death Star in Direct TV, plus some Fox Regional Sports
Networks, not to mention a half a billion plus in cash.
Both men can claim a victory and Malone can take pride that
he has once again pulled off his signature financial feat,
a transaction in which he will have to pay no taxes. Malone
and his troops know the loopholes in the tax law better than
Murdoch has made some billions with Direct TV and managed
to shed an outlet that he has some questions about as it didnt
easily provide high speed internet connections, a service
television providers are increasingly being expected to offer.
Now all of this could come unglued; it has before.
Its certainly interesting to watch from my perspective,
knowing enough about the industry to find it fascinating and
having had the opportunity to have met both these players
once at the Superhighway Summit in 1994 for the Television
Academy. [I did literally bump into Rupert another time, in
New York. He had been being true to the Aussie stereotype
and had had a few too many, leaving his steps unsteady on
Spring Street where he was showing his new wife some jewelry
in a window.]
Now all of this may seem far removed from our everyday lives.
Its not. News Corporation remains a mega media player
and John Malone, aka Darth Vader, will once again strut his
favorite stage with an asset more malleable than his passive
stake in News Corp. and out of all of this will come changes
to our lives that will come beaming right into our living
rooms, just like the Death Star beamed its death ray down