AOL Time Warner Inc. chief financial officer Wayne Pace confirmed rumors that
the media giant was looking to sell its 50 percent stakes in cable networks
Courtroom Television Network and Comedy Central at an industry conference
And CEO Richard Parsons is considering the sale of the company's sports
franchises, according to an analyst's report Friday.
Pace, speaking at the Banc of America Securities LLC 32nd Annual
Investment conference in San Francisco, told the audience AOL Time Warner is
focused on reducing debt and cleaning up its balance sheet, which could include
the sale of noncore assets such as Court TV and Comedy.
'There's been public discussion about Comedy Central and Court TV,' Pace
said. 'We've had discussions. Whether or not something happens will depend on
whether or not the price is right. We're not going to do it in a distressed
Comedy is a 50-50 partnership with Viacom Inc., and Court TV is jointly owned
with Liberty Media Corp.
But valuations of the networks have varied widely, with Merrill Lynch &
Co. analyst Jessica Reif Cohen pegging Court TV at $1.95 billion and Comedy
Central at $2.05 billion. Other analysts have valued the two networks as low as
$900 million and $1.4 billion, respectively.
UBS Warburg LLC media analyst Christopher Dixon said in a research report
that Parsons told the investment bank at a breakfast meeting that it was
considering monetizing noncore assets such as its stakes in Court TV and Comedy
and possibly its sports franchises.
While Dixon did not identify which sports franchises could be for sale, they
could include the National Basketball Association's Atlanta Hawks or the
National Hockey League's Atlanta Thrashers.
AOL Time Warner also owns Major League Baseball's Atlanta Braves, but it is
unlikely that this successful franchise would be put on the block.
Parsons also dismissed rumors that AOL Time Warner would spin out its America
Online Inc. Internet-service provider unit, saying, '`Unscrambling those eggs'
could result in two companies with hampered balanced sheets and less diversified
revenue sources,' Dixon wrote.