A clandestine effort in 1997 by Microsoft Corp.'s Bill Gates and Comcast
Corp.'s Ralph and Brian Roberts to grab a key block of Tele-Communications Inc.
voting stock infuriated John Malone, who had been scrambling to lock up control
of his cable company following the death of TCI founder Bob Magness, according
to a new Malone biography to be published in November.
'Malone was livid, especially with the Robertses, with whom he had been
partners in deals that shaped the industry,' Wall Street Journal editor
Mark Robichaux wrote in his new book, Cable Cowboy: John Malone and the Rise of
the Modern Cable Business.
Magness, Malone's business partner of 30 years, died in November 1996. He
left behind 32 million supervoting shares of TCI stock that his heirs needed to
sell to pay estate taxes. Malone ended up acquiring the Magness shares for TCI,
but not before fending off Gates and the Roberts family, who stood to gain
considerable control over TCI if they had obtained the stock.
Then-TCI president Leo J. Hindery Jr. was just as irate as Malone. Gates and
the Roberts family had worked anonymously through Wall Street banker Steve
Rattner to bid for the Magness stock.
'Bill Gates was never an issue -- he has the right to go after anyone; that's
business,' Robichaux quotes Hindery as saying. 'But Brian broke the code --
there will come a time when I will make that son of a bitch pay, but right now I
need some stuff done.'
Robichaux's book takes a long and largely favorable look at the life and
legendary business career of 61-year-old Malone -- his rescue of TCI, his
financial alchemy and his hardball business tactics that enriched himself and
TCI shareholders but generated political backlash in Washington,