News

Update: Bresnan Auction Underway, Guided By UBS and Credit Suisse

3/22/2010 10:41 AM Eastern

On March 1, The Wire informed the world that
Bresnan Communications’ principal backer
had been exploring possible interest in buying
its majority stake in the 320,000-customer
cable operation. Here’s an update: Detailed
“books” on the systems are expected to go
out to interested parties shortly.

Providence Equity Partners
began
meeting with bankers concerning its options
regarding the Bresnan systems, in
Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah,
earlier this month.

According to sources familiar with the
process, Providence has picked Credit Suisse
and UBS as its lead bankers in what is
now considered an auction. Those same
sources said that CS and UBS could provide
up to $1 billion in staple financing (about
6 times Bresnan’s annual cash flow of $160
million) to the winning bidder.

That would push the price well into the
$1 billion range, including equity.

No date has been set for initial bids on
the systems yet. Possible bidders include
other private equity firms and smaller cable
operators, people in the know say. Comcast,
which owns about 30%, would likely be encouraged
to remain a partner by any new
financial investor.

‘60 Minutes’ Piece
Strikes ‘Gold’ in
Malone’s Contest

Liberty Media’s John Malone gave out the
company’s first “Media for Liberty” award
Thursday night to 60 Minutes for a segment,
“Congo Gold,” about how precious minerals
have helped fuel the deadliest war since
World War II.

The award is for journalism that “explores
the relationship between political and economic
liberty.”

The Congo suffers from a lack of both,
with its mineral wealth stripped by warring
factions to fuel an ongoing conflict that has
claimed 5 million lives since 1996.

Malone, presenting the award to 60 Minutes
correspondent Scott Pelley and the
piece’s producers, called the segment the
sort of programming that makes him proud
to be in the TV business.

The evening was hosted by political humorist
P.J. O’Rourke, who managed to relate
the excesses of agricultural subsidies
to his experience with artificially inseminating
a cow. Malone added that he had
about 16,000 head if O’Rourke wanted to
try again.

Malone was joined at the head table
by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Maria
Cantwell
(D-Wash.). That did not stop the
Liberty Media chairman from extolling the
virtues of journalism as a way to keep power
from corrupting powerful politicians.

Malone talked briefly about the reason
for the journalism award. He chronicled
various investments, including those in
PBS NewsHour (MacNeil/Lehrer Productions
president Les Crystal was in the audience),
Ted Turner’s CNN and Fox News
Channel. Malone said the goal from his
earliest days in the cable business was to
have the “broadest platform” possible. But
he said the challenge today is not how to
get those voices heard, but how to pay for
them.

The big issue, he said, especially for
broadcasting, is how to continue to afford
sending a reporter to Iraq, and keeping
them there. He added that distributors
— like cable and satellite networks — are
doing their part and will likely be supporting
broadcasters for some time to come
via retrans.

November