Net bid war looms

Televisa threatens suit over Univision

Haim Saban can expect a court battle if his consortium wins the bidding war for U.S. Hispanic net Univision.

Emilio Azcarraga Jean, topper of Televisa, the world’s biggest Spanish-language web, told MBA students Thursday in Mexico City he won’t partner with Saban — or any other successful bidder for the web, which Televisa aims to secure.

Without Televisa on board as a partner, any new owner of Univision would inherit a lawsuit filed last year by Televisa that seeks to end its programming deal with Univision. Deal is set expire in 2017.

Univision relies heavily on Televisa telenovelas to pump its primetime sked.

Televisa has partnered with Bill Gates and four private equity groups to bid on Univision, which has an 80% share of the U.S. Hispanic market.

With Saban backed by a group of equally deep-pocketed private equity firms, analysts expect a bidding war.

Late last week, Univision extended the deadline for formal offers from June 8 to June 20, said sources close to the negotiations.

Televisa only formed its group of bidders last month and is engineering a complex bid that has to take into account limits on foreign ownership.

Televisa’s corporate VP, Alfonso de Angoitia, is in New York with a team of Televisa execs structuring the web’s bid for Univision.

Televisa owns 11% of Univision and wants to increase its share to the maximum 25% allowed under FCC regs limiting foreign ownership of U.S. broadcasters.

Televisa could also structure its bid with its equity partners so that it has a larger share of the network while U.S. equity would own Univision’s stations. The FCC could take a more lax stance on foreign ownership of non-broadcast media assets, said senior analyst Philip Remek at Guzman & Co.

Univision owner A. Jerrold Perenchio and web’s board recently approved hefty severance packages and stock grants for four execs, including CEO Ray Rodriguez, if they are fired after the change of ownership.

Azcarraga was angered by Rodriguez’s appointment last year and he will get the first pink slip if Televisa is successful.

Other execs with golden parachutes include Robert Cahill, vice chairman and secretary; Andrew Hobson, senior exec VP and chief strategic officer; and C. Douglas Kranwinkle, senior VP and general counsel, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Media reports have calculated the total buyout for the four execs at more than $36 million.

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