After months of negotiations, and in a deal that reshapes the nation’s entertainment industry, cable operator-turned-entertainment giant Comcast (CMCSA) officially agreed Thursday to buy a majority stake of NBC Universal from General Electric (GE) ; valuing NBC division at $30 billion.
Under the terms of the deal, NBC Universal, which includes top-rated channels — USA Network, Bravo, SyFy, CNBC and MSNBC, will become a joint venture between GE and Comcast, with the cable operator owning a 51% majority stake in NBCU. Comcast from its part will contribute to the deal $6.5 billion in cash, its own cable TV networks — including E!, Versus, the Golf Channel and 10 regional sports networks, and other assets.
As part of the transaction, NBCU will borrow about $9.1 billion and distribute the cash to GE. Meanwhile, european media company Vivendi, which currently owns a 20% stake in NBCU with GE, will sell its stake to GE at a value of $5.8 billion, allowing Comcast to take eventual control of the company.
In a joint statement announcing the agreement, Brian L. Roberts, the chief executive of Comcast, said “This deal is a perfect fit for Comcast and will allow us to become a leader in the development and distribution of multiplatform ‘anytime, anywhere’ media that American consumers are demanding..We are honored that under this agreement Comcast would take over the stewardship of this important collection of assets.”
The deal, which marks one of the biggest transactions in the media business in recent history, could take up to 18 months to pass regulatory muster. Until it has, NBC Universal Chief Jeff Zucker will continue to call the shots.
“This marks the start of a new era for NBCU, and I’m genuinely excited that I will be leading this wonderful organization, along with the Comcast team, at this important time in our history,” Zucker said in a release.
Headquarters for the business will remain in New York. The joint venture board will have three directors nominated by Comcast and two nominated by GE.
News Corporation (NWSA), which owns the Fox TV network and the Wall Street Journal, was reportedly interested in NBC Universal.