Comcast Corp., the country’s No. 1 cable operator, has officially expressed interest in acquiring Vivendi Universal, the L.A. Weekly learned today.
So add the name of Comcast’s Brian Roberts to the shortlist of media moguls — MGM’s Kirk Kirkorian, Liberty Media’s John Malone, NBC’s Bob Wright, Viacom’s Sumner Redstone, former Seagram chief Edgar Bronfman Jr. and oil billionaire Marvin Davis — who all are in various stages of pursuit of the show-biz assets of Vivendi, the French water, telecommunications and entertainment giant.
The timing of all this jockeying couldn’t be more perfect: just as Universal releases the racehorse movie Seabiscuit this weekend at theaters around the nation.
So far, only Davis’ bid has been formally rejected by Vivendi’s directors as they start the process of winnowing out some of the initial offers. But Comcast’s interest will be welcome news to the board, which knows that the more bidders for Vivendi Universal the better, because it will drive up the price despite the media industry’s doldrums.
Sources say Comcast’s interest is still at the early stages and the giant hasn’t made any bid yet. Vivendi has said it wants a sped-up process, which by all accounts means final offers submitted in September.
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The entrance of Comcast comes after the company made big news earlier this month when Liberty Media agreed to pay $7.9 billion in cash and stock to buy out partner Comcast’s 57.5 percent stake in QVC, the home shopping channel. The sale price for QVC was much higher than analysts had anticipated, at about 15 times cash flow.
With 22 million subscribers, Comcast, whose founder is Ralph Roberts and whose son Brian is CEO, already has shown a huge appetite for mergers and acquisitions. Comcast shocked the cable industry almost exactly two years ago when it made an all-stock offer for AT&T Broadband.
That moved Comcast into the Really Big Media leagues. This new move would send it into the Mammoth Media clique.
Contact Nikki Finke at email@example.com.