SEAGRAM CO. LURKS IN BACKGROUND AT TIME WARNER MEETING

By Published on .

Most Popular
The Seagram saga took a backseat at Time Warner's annual meeting in Burbank, Calif., last week. But despite attempts by company executives and analysts to throw water on the flames, the rumors refuse to die. With Seagram Co. now holding a 14.9% stake in Time Warner, there were expectations the meeting would be dominated by talk of a possible takeover attempt or debate on whether to give Seagram a board seat.

But Time Warner Chairman-CEO Gerald Levin in his prepared remarks carefully avoided any mention of Seagram, the Bronfman family or poison pills.

The issue arose during the question and answer session. Mr. Levin told shareholders he has met with Seagram President Edgar Bronfman Jr.-who's expected to add the title of CEO at that company's annual meeting next month-but that they didn't discuss board representation or further investments by Seagram in Time Warner.

Mr. Levin, who noted the attendance of three Seagram representatives, also said the Time Warner board has never discussed a seat for Mr. Bronfman.

Speculation about Seagram's plans remains rampant, though many media analysts also believe a hostile takeover is unlikely.

"Basically, there's a poison pill that, if exercised, would be very unpleasant for the party going over" the 15% mark, said John Reidy, analyst with Smith Barney Shearson, New York. "It's our position that you can't go in and take over a talent-driven enterprise because the film stars and recording talent could all leave unless they want it to happen."

Mr. Reidy said the deal doesn't make sense financially either, estimating it would cost $40 billion to swallow the debt-laden communications giant. He has warned investors "it's a very foolish thing to buy [Time Warner stock] on takeover speculation. We just don't think it's going to happen."

In this article: