Media mogul Byron Allen has reiterated his desire to buy ABC from Disney for $10 billion. Jerod Harris
Media mogul Byron Allen reaffirmed his will pay Disney $10 billion for ABC and a host of other cable companies, including National Geographic and FX, which would add considerable clout to its already sizable television empire.
The founder of Allen Media Group made an offer earlier this month for the Disney properties and revealed that he had been courting Disney CEO Bob Iger for years because of his interest in cable assets. Allen says the two first met while he was the host of a reality TV show Real people in the early ’80s and Iger was an up-and-coming ABC executive, and that the two even sent their children to the same school. “I’ve been on his case for years,” Allen said in an interview Wednesday at Vox’s Code Conference in Dana Point, California. “Like, ‘Come on Bob, what are you doing, man, drop these stations.’ »
When Iger told CNBC in July that he was considering selling Disney’s cable channels, Allen got serious about his courtship. “I immediately texted him and said, ‘Hey, I’m your guy,’” Allen said.
However, Allen admitted that he would have to wait patiently because Iger was not yet ready to sell. Iger, according to Allen, was still determining the best way to separate ABC from Disney.
Allen Media Group acquisition frenzy over the past five years – $300 million for the Weather Channel and about $500 million for local TV stations – has been financed primarily by debt. Asked by CNBCWhen Julia Boorstin explained how he would finance the $10 billion needed to meet Disney’s asking price, Allen was unwavering.
“The capital is not the problem,” Allen said. “The real advantage is the certainty of the conclusion: the approval of the agreement. »
He then explained that his company was the best option for Disney because regulators would not block the deal as they would with other potential buyers. The government, Allen said, would not allow big tech companies, which are under the control of both political parties, to make this acquisition and grow even more by diversifying into traditional media. “A tech company can’t even buy a lemonade stand today,” Allen said. “And if they think they can buy something of this magnitude, they are being poorly advised.”
Lina Khan’s recent Federal Trade Commission lawsuits may provide evidence for Allen’s point of view. The FTC, under the Biden administration, has made clear that it is working to reduce the influence of big tech companies. Just this week, the FTC filed a historic and long-awaited request. lawsuit against Amazonaccusing it of being a monopoly. Alphabet currently fighting against own antitrust lawsuit following accusations that its Google search engine unfairly stifled competition as it was poised to dominate the online search market. And in July of last year, the FTC filed a lawsuit to block Meta’s activities. try to buy a virtual reality startup, accusing it of trying to buy rather than innovate to enter new markets. Nevertheless, in February, Meta received approval to close the deal.
Private equity and hedge funds would also be unattractive buyers for regulators because of their mismanagement of news organizations in the past, Allen says. “DC is not – how should I put this – they are not impressed with the way private equity and hedge funds have managed the newspapers and hastened their demise,” Allen said. It’s a subject he’s passionate about, hence the fact that his Allen Media Group owns 36 local news channels. Private equity firms or hedge funds could bid, but Allen thinks they would need a partner like him to operate the networks for the deal to be approved. All other major media companies would be barred from entering into a deal due to a media ownership lawwhich prohibits a company from controlling more than 39% of the market nationally.
Allen, in his eyes, is a bit like the last man standing. “I’m the prettiest girl at the ball, let’s be honest,” he said.
Allen Media Group declined to comment.
“I’m building the greatest media company in the world.”
Allen, who launched his media company at his dining room table after a stint as a comedian and talk show host, has become increasingly open about his ambitions. “I’m building the biggest media company in the world,” he told Boorstin when asked about his five-year plan. Buying one of the big four networks and one of the country’s most trusted news sources would undoubtedly be a huge step toward achieving the influence it seems to desire, if not necessarily the extent.
Its biggest move so far was the acquisition of Weather Channel in 2018. Even then, it bought a bulky linear TV asset and identified previously underappreciated value. After the acquisition, it pivoted its content strategy to focus on climate change, while the network had previously avoided doing so for fear of alienating climate deniers, including former President Donald Trump.
“We are going to tell the truth to the American people,” Allen said. “We are going to educate them on what (climate change) means and how it affects us and how we are going to protect and save their lives and the lives of their loved ones.”
Allen’s white whale has been buying for a long time BET, which he believes should become black property again (Allen is black). He reportedly offered BET’s parent company Paramount $3.6 billion for the network, but his offer was rejected. “I want BET not just for economic reasons,” Allen said. “I want to BET for social reasons.”