The I’s are dotted, the T’s are crossed and the lawyers are all signed off. The $30 billion merger of Comcast’s cable channels and NBC Universal is now complete, the cable giant said Saturday.
The deal, which Comcast execs touted to NBC U employees last Thursday in a company-wide town hall sesh, took 13 months to complete, amid the politics that surrounded the regulatory approval process of the largest Big Media merger in a decade. It brings together for the first time a cable operator (the nation’s largest), a Big Three broadcast net, a Hollywood major and a suite of top-tier cable channels.
The starry collection of assets now fall under the leadership of Comcast chief operating officer Steve Burke, in his additional role as NBC U CEO. Burke has already moved forcefully to realign the management of some NBC U divisions. He’s expected to make some bold moves in implementing the vision that Comcast has outlined in pushing for the merger of using its broad cable base and other new technologies to find innovative ways to distribute NBC U’s core film and TV product.
Provisions in Comcast’s deal with Peacock parent General Electric to buy 51 percent of NBC U allow the cable giant to buy the remainder of the company in stages over a seven-year time frame.
As unveiled Thursday, the merged company will be known as NBCUniversal LLC. The new regime raised some eyebrows by unveiling a new corporate logo that does not incorporate NBC’s iconic Peacock logo or Universal’s globe icon, though Comcast execs were quick to note that those images will still remain for the studio and NBC-branded nets.
In a statement Saturday, Comcast chairman-CEO Brian Roberts enthused: “This transaction brings together the rich traditions of some of the world’s most well known and respected entertainment, news and sports brands at NBCUniversal with the technology and consumer reach of Comcast, creating the ideal entertainment and distribution company. We are very appreciative of all of the hard work that (GE chief) Jeff Immelt and his team at GE put into this transaction over the past year and are thrilled to have the highly talented team at NBCUniversal be a part of the Comcast family.”
Immelt echoed Roberts’ sentiments: “NBC U has been a great business for GE over the past 20 years, generating an average annual return of 11 percent. Reducing our ownership stake to 49 percent allows GE to continue sharing in NBC U’s growth while also providing significant cash to invest in our high-technology infrastructure businesses. I want to express GE’s and my special thanks to the talented and dedicated employees of NBCU who have built a world-renowned business and are its heart and soul. We are excited by the growth opportunities ahead for NBCUniversal under Brian Roberts, Steve Burke and the Comcast team’s leadership.”
The complex transaction was handled by a fleet of lawyers and financial advisers. Morgan Stanley served as lead financial advisor to Comcast with UBS and BofA Merrill Lynch acting as co-advisors. Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP served as Comcast’s legal advisors. J.P. Morgan was lead financial advisor to GE with Goldman Sachs and Citi acting as co-advisors. Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP was GE’s and NBCUniversal’s legal advisor.