×

Once registered, you can:

  • - Read additional free articles each month
  • - Comment on articles and featured creative work
  • - Get our curated newsletters delivered to your inbox

By registering you agree to our privacy policy, terms & conditions and to receive occasional emails from Ad Age. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Are you a print subscriber? Activate your account.

A BLOCKBUSTER CHANGE POST-VIACOM, HUIZENGA STILL LIKES OPPORTUNITIES IN ENTERTAINMENT

By Published on .

The consummation of Blockbuster Entertainment Corp.'s long-awaited merger with Viacom was a bittersweet event for H. Wayne Huizenga.

Last Friday, the day after the merger became official, the 56-year-old self-made multimillionaire gave up daily command of the video empire he built in seven years, where he was chairman-CEO.

But don't feel sorry for Mr. Huizenga.

He remains vice chairman of the newly combined company, in which he holds a 3% stake worth about $500 million.

The executive will stay with Viacom for six to 12 months. Of his future plans, he said, "People think I have something else up my sleeve, but I don't .*.*. I can't work for someone else. I am not an employee; I'm an entrepreneur."

The future could bring some involvement in the entertainment industry. It's apparent Mr. Huizenga was smitten by the glitz of his negotiations with Viacom and Paramount, and Blockbuster's earlier acquisition of Spelling Entertainment and Republic Pictures.

"I like the entertainment industry. It's a lot of fun," he said. "While there aren't too many voids left to fill in the entertainment industry, there still are opportunities."

That said, it would be hard for a new company to replace Blockbuster in his heart.

"I'm very attached to this company," Mr. Huizenga told Electronic Media, a sister publication to Advertising Age, last week before the special Sept. 29 shareholders meeting. "These are very tough times for me. I personally do not want to sell the company or merge the company. I'd like nothing better than to continue doing what I've been doing."

Mr. Huizenga will remain in south Florida and continue to oversee his other assets, including his three pro sports teams, although he says he doesn't expect to expand his sports interests.

Huizenga Holdings, his personal investment arm, will research new business ventures in all industries.

Born in Chicago and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Mr. Huizenga created multibillion-dollar value in two public companies-Waste Management and then Blockbuster-by identifying business voids.

He acquired Blockbuster for $18 million in 1987 and for the next two years was paid only in stock options. At the time of last week's merger, he held 17 million shares of Blockbuster stock. His personal worth is valued at upwards of $700 million.

In the past seven years, Blockbuster's stock price has risen 4,000% and its market value went from $30 million to $8.5 billion.

Even after he leaves to pursue a new entrepreneurial venture, Mr. Huizenga said he will remain on the Viacom board and will retain his estimated 12 million shares, making him the second largest shareholder behind Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone.

The renamed Blockbuster Entertainment Group is now under the daily command of Steven Berrard, longtime Blockbuster president, who will serve as president-CEO of the new subsidiary under a long-term contract.

Viacom will move quickly to tap Blockbuster's cash flow and customer database to, among other ventures, open studio stores for product merchandising.

Once it completes nearly $5 billion in asset sales, Viacom is expected to turn its sights on acquiring a broadcast network-possibly CBS.

"Yes, a network would be nice if it was at the right price. It all depends on price," Mr. Huizenga said. "Paramount is developing a fifth network. We have to determine whether it's cheaper to develop our own fifth network or to go out and buy an existing one and overpay by a couple of billion dollars."

Mr. Huizenga said the Viacom merger represents an important 10-year growth shortcut for Blockbuster, which may soon face intense competition in its core business from home video on demand.

"I don't believe video on demand is coming around as quickly as everyone says it is. I believe that 10 years from now, there may not be 50% of the U.S. that has video on demand," he said.

But, he added, "When you know that video on demand is coming, then you have to diversify because you can't wake up 10 years from now and all of a sudden find your business gone."

Ms. Mermigas is financial editor of Electronic Media.

In this article:
Most Popular