New York -- TCI Ventures Group could end up with a
small interest in publishing house Simon & Schuster Inc., if a bid for the Viacom Inc.
unit by Michael Milken and Lawrence Ellison prevails.
Executives at TCI Ventures -- a Tele-Communications Inc.
subsidiary holding various TCI investments -- said last week that TCI Ventures committed
an undisclosed sum toward the bid as an extension of a prior arrangement with
Milken's and Ellison's Knowledge Universe venture.
"We're delighted to be a participant, if
it's successful, in a Simon & Schuster effort," TCI Ventures chairman Leo J.
Hindery Jr. told reporters in a call last Friday to discuss the unit's first-quarter
earnings. TCI Ventures CEO Gary Howard said any investment would be "a very de
minimis, if at all, dollar amount" from TCI Ventures, which would explore
possible educational-programming offshoots.
Hindery dismissed published reports last week putting
TCI's share at $500 million as "not even close."
In January, Viacom said it would seek bids for all of Simon
& Schuster except the consumer-publishing unit, although some analysts think that
Viacom would consider selling the entire subsidiary at the right price. Furman Selz LLC,
in a recent report, estimated that Simon & Schuster, with a projected $390 million in
1998 cash flow, could fetch $5 billion in a sale.
The TCI Ventures connection came from TCI's decision
to sell 60 percent of the ETC w/tci Inc. educational-training business to Knowledge
Universe, Hindery said. That deal has not yet closed, he said, but it should do so
shortly. Most of ETC has already been closed down, Hindery said earlier last week.
"It's really the electronic end-pieces of ETC
that were continued and rolled into this joint-venture company. It's that company
that has been a participant in the Simon & Schuster transaction," he added
According to published reports, Milken and Ellison have
also recruited News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch into their bid, which was submitted last
week. Rival bidders were reported to include British publisher Pearson plc with
leveraged-buyout firm Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst.