Merger Would Let CBS Chief Tisch Ease Out Of Network With AM-CBS-QVC, Bjt
NEW YORK (AP) _ A merger between CBS and QVC Inc. would give the TV network’s boss, Laurence Tisch, a chance to gracefully and lucratively bow out of a business that never really suited him.
Though the 71-year-old Tisch has built CBS back into the top-rated network, with record profits to boot, he did it with a pennypinching style that maddened people in the industry. They said he lacked the vision to see where broadcasting was going.
″Vision is not in the vocabulary of Larry Tisch,″ said Porter Bibb, an investment banker with Ladenburg, Thalmann & Co. ″He’s a trader, and a damn good one. But he’s not a broadcaster, no matter how often he says he’s got broadcasting in his blood.″
Since the 1986 boardroom coup that put Tisch in charge - with CBS founder William Paley’s blessing - there’s been as much internal melodrama at the network as there is on the daytime soaps.
With unwavering single-mindedness - some would say ruthlessness - Tisch set about rebuilding CBS’ core broadcast business.
The network sold its recording and publishing businesses at bargain prices. Management was cut and the news department was decimated, with some fired employees barely having time to clean out their desks.
Gloom set in at CBS. Three years into Tisch’s tenure, the network was at the bottom of the ratings and ABC News had taken over CBS’ long-time dominance. Profits were disappointing.
Yet Tisch held steady, and the payoff arrived. His deputy, CBS President Howard Stringer, nursed along creative shows such as ″Murphy Brown″ and ″Northern Exposure″ that lifted CBS to the top of the ratings for the last three years.
For the short term, Tisch has served CBS shareholders well, with the company’s stock doubling in price since he took over. The principal beneficiary of a QVC merger would be Tisch, who owns about 20 percent of CBS stock and stands to double his original investment of about $750 million.
Tisch would remain as chairman after the merger, but management of the company would fall to QVC Chairman Barry Diller.
When Tisch took over CBS, he said it would be temporary until he found a good broadcast executive to run the network. Instead, he stayed on, basking in the public eye with flair and flamboyance after decades as a behind-the-scenes investor.
Tisch and his brother, Robert, started out as hotel owners and used their profits to acquire Loews Corp., a conglomerate that included CNA Financial and Lorillard tobacco, maker of Kent, Newport and True cigarettes.
Even at Loews, Tisch was more an investment manager than a company executive. His brother ran the company.
At CBS, Tisch ″has been effective but not expert at downsizing the company,″ Bibb said. ″He’s been no spokesman for broadcasting. You don’t come into a unique property like CBS with a trader’s mentality.″