Fueled by the success of its National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing
programming, Fox Cable Networks Group is making moves to snap up the remaining
interest in Speedvision/Outdoor Life Network, sources said.
According to sources close to the negotiations, Fox Cable is talking with Cox
Communications Inc., AT&T Corp., Comcast Corp. and minority investors such
as Speedvision CEO Roger Werner and the estate of cable pioneer Bill Daniels
about acquiring their stakes in the racing network.
Those same sources said Cox and AT&T have already 'put' their shares to
Fox Cable, and negotiations are under way for the other partners to do the
Fox is unlikely to grab the network cheaply. According to one source,
Speedvision and OLN are valued at roughly a combined $1 billion.
Fox parent News Corp. is not in the best position to spend big money at this
point, particularly since it's in heated negotiations to purchase
direct-broadcast satellite provider DirecTV Inc.
One source said Fox wouldn't necessarily have to pay cash for Speedvision.
The network could work out a deal to trade its OLN stake for control of
Speedvision, or throw in stakes in other networks.
'Fox is going down a path that is either cash-positive or cash-neutral to
them,' the source said.
Fox Cable officials declined to comment. President Jeff Shell has said in
past published reports that he would be interested in owning all of Speedvision
at 'the right price.'
Cox and AT&T representatives declined comment about Speedvision. Comcast
officials could not be reached.
Fox Cable, then Fox/Liberty Networks, bought 34 percent of Speedvision/OLN in
1998 for about $90 million. Along with that stake came the right to buy out the
other partners beginning in March 2001. Fox's rights extend to 2004.
According to sources, Cox and AT&T put their shares to Fox March 24,
which triggered a valuation of the network by independent auditors. Fox,
AT&T and Cox are in the process of hiring investment bankers to value their
stakes. After that occurs, it's up to the parties to agree on a