Gates confirms talks on $2bn Turner alliance

MATHEW HORSMAN

Microsoft's founder, Bill Gates, yesterday confirmed he is in talks that might lead to a $2bn multimedia alliance with media mogul Ted Turner's news and entertainment giant, Turner Broadcasting System (TBS).

The news fuelled speculation that Mr Turner, the founder of Cable News Network, may use the alliance to launch a counter-bid for CBS, the US network currently the target of a $5.4bn offer from Westinghouse.

A Microsoft-TBS link would mark the latest in a string of high-profile takeovers and strategic partnerships in the global media sector, including the $19bn purchase by Disney of ABC/Capital Cities and a $2bn alliance between News Corporation and long-distance telephone company MCI.

Speaking on the US talk show Larry King Live late on Monday, Mr Gates said he would consider making an equity investment, which analysts say could reach $2bn, in TBS if "the right kind of interactive venture was worked out between the companies". Mr Gates is believed to be interested in Mr Turner's extensive library of programmes, which might be distributed through the Microsoft Network or through on-demand services currently under development.

Amplifying his comments yesterday, Mr Gates told US network NBC: "It would be inter- esting to see how the interactive world and the broadcasting world might come together. In return, maybe there are some things we could help Ted Turner do." He added, though, that it was far too soon to say how discussions would proceed.

If a deal is concluded, Mr Gates would be expected to support Mr Turner's long-standing ambition to own a large US television network.

Efforts to buy CBS in 1985 failed when Mr Turner was outmanoeuvred by billionaire investor Larry Tisch, now CBS chairman. While some inside CBS would prefer TBS to Westinghouse, Mr Tisch is not among them.

Lending credence to the renewed speculation about a counter-bid, TBS said late on Monday that it would not proceed with a long-expected $1.7bn share-swap purchase of King World Productions, a leading distributor of such US TV programmes as the Oprah Winfrey Show. At the same time, the company looks less likely now to make an offer for the Samuel Goldwyn Company, the rump of Hollywood studio MGM.

In a terse statement, TBS said: "The board met today and discussed several strategic opportunities... The board determined it had no current plans to pursue an acquisition of King World Productions."

The decision could free cash and make it easier to raise finance. This might help Mr Turner to convince his board to back a plan to bid for CBS, or even to join forces with Westinghouse to make a joint offer.

But media analysts in New York said he would have to move quickly, as Westinghouse's bid was already well advanced.

Time Warner, which owns 18 per cent of TBS and has three seats on the 15-member board, had apparently resisted Mr Turner's efforts to put together a bid. It is interested in selling its TBS stake, and may now back a CBS bid if Mr Turner or another buyer agrees to take the shares. Talks about a possible sale of the stake last year to Tele-Communications Corp, another TBS shareholder, foundered when Time Warner insisted on a 60 per cent premium.

Comment, page 17

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?