John Malone has come clean about his intentions for Vivendi Universal Entertainment.
He wants it. All of it.
And judging from his comments May 15 at a New York investors meeting, he thinks his Liberty Media has a good shot at getting it, thanks to “the Diller card.”
The opportunistic Malone believes the leverage that he and Diller’s USAI have with Viv U may be enough to swing a good deal for all.
But for Malone, among the savviest negotiators in the business, doing the deal could be the easy part.
It’s the idea of Malone and his Denver-based braintrust of bankers actually running VUE that promptsquestion marks.
Not one to be seduced by the aphrodisiac of rubbing shoulders with movie stars, Malone certainly would be a most unusual studio buyer: one whose primary goal is to maximize shareholders’ return on equity.
But generating long-term returns with such a notoriously unpredictable business as a movie studio would be a challenge, even for the no-nonsense Malone.
Still, Malone would seem less likely to fall victim to the showbiz foibles that often ensnare unknowing corporate newbies.
Under Liberty, Universal would surely need a strong and entrepreneurial commander. And Malone has long been a patron of strong entrepreneurs like Discovery’s John Hendricks and USA Interactive’s Barry Diller.
Many have pointed to Dreamworks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg, a Diller protege, as a solid candidate to run U under Liberty.
Malone didn’t deny that talks had taken place, though he wouldn’t predict whether Katzenberg, or even DreamWorks, could be part of the VUE solution.