Now that the Comcast/NBCU deal is official, some of the backstory behind the cable operator’s quest for a transformative M&A deal over the last year is coming out.
Comcast had pondered acquiring Facebook; another cable company (Comcast won a court victory this summer vs. the FCC’s 30% cable ownership cap); or a mobile phone company (the long-simmering rumor about Sprint, it would seem), the New York Times reports today.
And the biggest U.S. cable operator also supposedly was interested in Viacom, home to MTV Networks and Paramount Pictures but, as the NYT’s Andrew Ross Sorkin and Tim Arango point out, “is unencumbered by a broadcast network.” However, Sumner Redstone wasn’t interested in selling, according to the paper.
Other interesting bits from the Times account:
* GE CEO Jeff Immelt wanted to get the blessing of Comcast “patriarch” Ralph Roberts, which was accomplished through a “secret” meeting at the 9th hole of a golf course in Sun Valley, Idaho, with Steve Burke.
* The negotiating teams used color code names for each party: GE was “Green”; NBC was “Navy”; Vivendi was “Violet”; and Comcast was “Crimson” — the last because Immelt and Burke had been classmates at Harvard Business School, the NYT explains. [So under that scheme, would Sprint be “Saffron”? Facebook would be “Fuchsia” and Viacom “Vermilion.” I could play this game all day.]
* Brian Roberts insisted on exclusive negotiations between GE and Comcast: “We’ve got to be monogamous,” he reportedly told Immelt.