John Malone showed once again that he can handle any situation - including getting heckled at a meeting of his own shareholders.
At Liberty Media's special meeting Nov. 19 in New York to approve the spinoff of Liberty Entertainment, Malone fielded a question from an obviously disgruntled shareholder who complained the company was not redeeming fractional shares in the transaction.
Malone at first tried to appease the man by telling him that he would take up his proposal of holding a separate "odd-lot" tender offer with counsel. But the questioner persisted.
So Malone told him that if he had bought Liberty stock when he said he bought it - the questioner he said he originally owned Liberty Satellite stock, which was retired several years ago - and held onto his shares, then he had done "extremely well." The man continued to complain.
"Let me put it this way," Malone said. "I started broke and I'm now a billionaire. And I never sold any shares."
Malone has some stats to back him up. At Liberty's investor day in October, VP of finance Neal Dermer said that over the last 14 years, Liberty stock has had a compound annual growth rate of 12-13%, double its nearest competitor at 6%.
Malone said his earlier company, Tele-Communications Inc., for 20 years had the highest return on equity of any public corporation in the U.S.
The Wire also recalls media investor Paul Kagan frequently citing huge returns Malone had delivered. In 2003 Kagan claimed in a Cable World column that investors who owned TCI stock for 25 years, selling TCI spinoffs for cash and reinvesting the proceeds in TCI, had reaped a 1,000,000% return on their investment.
So, uh, case closed, heckler.