DATE: Friday, June 13, 1997 TAG: 9706130992 SECTION: BUSINESS PAGE: D1 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY LON WAGNER, STAFF WRITER LENGTH: 107 lines
Hey, Tim Robertson, you've just sold International Family Entertainment and pocketed $95 million. What did you do to celebrate?
I watched the Bulls game on TV and I went to bed,'' Robertson said Thursday morning, the day after selling IFE to a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. for $1.9 billion.
Actually, Robertson conceded, there was a little more action than that. Before the basketball game, he went to a church supper.
``I looked at my wife last night and I said, `This is hilarious. We just did this big deal and we celebrate by going to a potluck dinner and watching a basketball game on TV,' '' Robertson said.
IFE's president and CEO said he is amazed at what Bulls star Michael Jordan can ``still pull off,'' but it was Tim Robertson who on Wednesday pulled off a mammoth business deal.
Robertson and his father, religious broadcaster Pat, created IFE eight years ago, bought The Family Channel seven years ago, and sold it Wednesday for $1.9 billion.
The $35-a-share price the Robertsons negotiated with Murdoch's Fox Kids Worldwide makes Tim Robertson's 2.7 million-plus IFE shares worth more than $95 million.
The Robertsons appear to have gained much and given up little in their deal with Murdoch:
Though they will no longer own any part of the company, Chairman Pat Robertson will become its co-chairman and Tim Robertson will remain president and CEO.
IFE's headquarters will remain in Virginia Beach. IFE does not expect to fire any of its 300 workers as a result of the merger, and may even take on more technical workers.
``As a purely selfish statement,'' Robertson said, ``I love Virginia Beach, my family is here, this is home, and I didn't particularly want to move.''
Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network will receive a cash infusion of $245.2 million, part of which will be transferred in 2010 from a trust he controls.
Robertson's Regent University will sell its 4.2 million shares and boost its endowment by $147.5 million.
Why would Murdoch pay such a premium for IFE, by comparison a tiny company with roots in religious programming? Because IFE was one of the last independent players in the television world.
Fox, Viacom, Sony and Disney also wanted something that IFE has: The Family Channel, a network brand based on G-rated shows that continues to post viewership and advertising dollar gains. The Family Channel in its 1996 fiscal year generated $100 million in cash flow, doubling its cash flow in three years.
Fox Kids Worldwide will likely try to boost The Family Channel's content with children's shows during the day, programming for teen-agers in the early evening and family-oriented shows at night, Robertson said. The Family Channel can put Murdoch's kids' programming into 68 million homes overnight.
The Family Channel needed Murdoch or one of the other media giants at this point because of the high cost of extending its reach to other continents, Smith Barney media analyst John S. Reidy said.
``It's Big Boy country now - that's what happened,'' Reidy said. ``This is an opportunity to get a bigger, more powerful guy behind them and take it global.''
Murdoch's News Corp. is already global. News Corp. owns BSkyB satellite broadcasting in Britain, HarperCollins publishing, Fox and all of its entertainment offshoots, the New York Post and the Times of London, among other things.
In fact, Pat Robertson has criticized media companies like Murdoch's for creating programming that has led to declining moral standards. Murdoch's Fox network runs shows such as ``The Simpsons'' and ``Melrose Place.''
Tim Robertson, though, said IFE and Fox have similarities, despite their differences in program tastes. Their corporate cultures, for instance, both stress leanness and frugality. Murdoch and the Robertsons are politically conservative.
Murdoch's and other programming giants' interest in The Family Channel has made the Robertsons feel somewhat vindicated: They've been saying that ``a large number of people want to see positive-value programs,'' Robertson said.
Wednesday's deal between IFE and Fox Kids can be evaluated from numerous angles, he added.
``You could say, `How can you be getting in business with the people who run the Fox channel?' '' Robertson said. ``On the other hand, you could say, `You're getting in business with the people who own The Times of London.' ''
News Corp.'s deep pockets could within a few years put The Family Channel in homes in Latin America, Asia and Europe, even Africa and Australia, Robertson said.
The Family Channel's brand could pop up in all forms of entertainment - movies, books, Internet services, any medium available, he said.
That's why Tim Robertson had a mighty good time Wednesday night at that potluck dinner. ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
Tim Robertson will remain the president and CEO of IFE.
WHAT TO DO:
If you are a shareholder, here's what the company advises:
You can send your shares in and receive a check from Fox Kids
You can do nothing. At the end of 90 days, the company will send
you a check and cancel your shares.
You can sell your shares before the merger is completed, as IFE's
shares continue to trade on the New York Stock Exchange. But
Robertson doesn't advise that.
IFE closed Thursday at $33.875, up $2 for the day. KEYWORDS: THE FAMILY CHANNEL IFE
Send Suggestions or Comments to