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Jeff Zucker Is NBC's Last Hope, According to an Anonymous Source Who Might Be Jeff Zucker

Jeff Zucker has long been rumored to be one of the New York Post's biggest anonymous sources on all things GE/NBC. Surely not every story with a Peter Lauria byline carries Zucker's fingerprints.

But many do.

So we sort of read the paper's Business section with that always in mind.

So today's article, about how corporate overlord GE is so afraid of tarnishing its triple-A credit rating that it refuses to give Zucker's entertainment division the cash it needs to do anything but mosey along to the beat of a tired drummer, and how Zucker is "doing everything he can to grow the media giant" despite that fact, screams of a Zucker plant.

Now watch how the story skips the angle of GE, and chief Jeff Immelt, making smart moves that protect shareholders, to GE being the slave driver of innocent 'ole NBC, which Zucker is doing his darnedest to try to save.

Slowing growth prospects and investor pressure have made GE's deep financial pockets much shallower and, as a result, Zucker can no longer rely on GE to backstop his deal-making.

"NBC is continuing to pursue its strategic plan, but it is being forced to find creative ways to finance deals and not count on GE as its sole financial resource," said one source who has worked on deals with the Peacock network.

That's why Zucker has enlisted private-equity firms The Blackstone Group and Bain Capital to help finance its $3 billion-plus bid for The Weather Channel. Sources said the $1.8 billion equity portion of the bid is to be split equally among the three partners, meaning NBC has only to put up $600 million of its own cash.

Under normal circumstances, a $3 billion price tag wouldn't raise an eyebrow at GE. However, one veteran media investment banker had a simple explanation for private equity's involvement in NBC's pursuit of The Weather Channel.

"No money. What else could explain the use of a ton of expensive capital? It's not like Blackstone and Bain are geniuses when it comes to programming."

And also:

It's not the first time NBC has had to go without GE support to back a deal. When the media company agreed to buy cable network Oxygen in October for $925 million - by all accounts a financial steal - it said the transaction would be "substantially self-funded through the sale of noncore assets."

NBC is currently selling four TV stations to help finance the Oxygen purchase.

Still faced with questions about GE's commitment to NBC, Zucker's deal-making is designed to both move the Peacock network out of stagnant businesses like broadcast television and into high-growth areas such as cable networks and digital, while at the same time laying off risk for the parent company.

It also gives NBC leeway to do more deals than it would be able to do on its own.

Sources said GE views its triple-A credit rating as sacrosanct, so finding creative ways to finance deals that avoid dragging down its parent company can only help Zucker convince GE boss Jeff Immelt of both his and NBC's worth.

Jun 3, 2008 · Link · 1 Response
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  • Comments (1)
    No. 1 Bobby says:

    Saw em on http://www.thehumanhybrid.com !!! F'in Hilarious!

    Posted: Jun 3, 2008 at 12:15 pm
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