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Speedy Liberty Meeting Minus Malone

Liberty Media Corp.'s annual meeting at the Inverness Hotel in Englewood, Colo., Tuesday was short and sweet -- just 14 minutes long -- and minus its most high-profile executive, chairman John Malone.

Malone, Liberty president Robert Bennett explained at the opening of the meeting, was with his daughter awaiting the birth of his second grandchild.

After finishing up four orders of business -- re-electing three directors (Jerome Kern, Larry Romrell and David Rapley); approving its 2000 employee-incentive plan (as amended Sept. 11, 2002) and its 2002 non-employee-director-incentive plan; and ratifying KPMG LLP as its accountants -- just two questions came from the floor.

The first came from an attendee asking why the annual meeting was so late in the year. Bennett said the delay was a result of earlier considerations of issuing tracking stocks to follow certain assets. However, he added, since those trackers are not being considered now, the decision was made to go ahead with the meeting.

The second and last question concerned Liberty's relationship with Comcast Corp., now the largest MSO in the country. At an investors' conference in New York earlier this month, Bennett had alluded that Liberty may want to increase its 42.5 percent stake in home shopping channel QVC Inc. (Comcast owns 57.5 percent) when its put rights become exercisable in February.

"We have a very large, diverse and complicated relationship with Comcast," Bennett said. "We are partners with them in QVC and E! Entertainment [Television]. We have an active and generally productive relationship with them."

He would not comment on the pending lawsuit between the two companies regarding Starz Encore Group LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty, but he said the litigation would have no effect on Liberty's relationship with Comcast.

"We intend to pursue our claims and our position vigorously," Bennett said. "At the same time, we will continue to do business with them -- they are our biggest customer, and we are an important supplier to them."

Earlier, Comcast filed suit against Starz in an effort to reconfigure a controversial carriage deal for the premium cable channel. Comcast had inherited the Starz contract through its acquisition of AT&T Broadband.

AT&T Broadband has also sued Starz to void the contract before its merger with Comcast was final. Starz filed a countersuit against AT&T Broadband, which had been stayed by the court until Jan. 31 to facilitate both sides settling the matter.