Liberty names ex-Oracle CFO as new chief
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Greg Maffei, selected by John Malone as the new chief executive of Liberty Media, will immediately start work on the media mogul's latest plan to boost the group's share price, including the creation of tracker shares.
The trackers which will include Liberty's QVC home shopping business and account for up to 80 per cent of Liberty's equity value could be a precursor to a full spin-off of Liberty's interactive businesses in two to three years, Mr Malone said.
Tracker shares are rarely used by companies these days because they are not a real separation of businesses, often leading investors to discount their value.
Mr Malone said on Wednesday that they were the best intermediate step because of the complications of a full spin-off, including the need to restructure debt, adding that the interactive group might make further acquisitions.
The remaining assets of Liberty Media which include a 19 per cent voting stake in News Corp, as well as numerous derivative and other financial investments will be “simplified” by Mr Maffei. These assets could eventually be bought by News Corp, and the voting shares replaced by non-voting ones, Mr Malone indicated.
Mr Maffei, who left Oracle abruptly last week after only four months as chief financial officer, was praised by Mr Malone on Wednesday as “one of the most astute financial thinkers I have met”.
His background in technology and telecoms companies he was chief financial officer at Microsoft and chief executive of telecoms group 360networks before his move to Oracle ties in with Mr Malone's vision of where the media industry is heading.
Mr Malone has said media groups have to reinvent themselves amid the widespread use of the internet and search engines. Liberty Media, which reported a third-quarter loss yesterday of $94m, or 3 cents per share, down from a $372m profit last time on investment losses, said revenues had risen by 13 per cent on the back of improvements at the QVC channel. Its shares were largely unchanged.
Mr Maffei joined Oracle, the second-biggest independent software company, in June as CFO and one of three co-presidents.
Infighting amongst Oracle's senior management, as three executives positioned themselves to take over from Larry Ellison, the company's chief executive, was said to have contributed Mr Maffei's his departure.
Mr Maffei has a reputation as a dealmaker and is best known for investments at Microsoft in the 1990s in the cable and telecoms sector, although most of these led to write-downs. Mr Malone first met him during that time.
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