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Karmazin: Keeping trouble at a distance - Broadcasting & Cable

Karmazin: Keeping trouble at a distance

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President Mel Karmazin isn't gloating about Viacom Inc.'s stock price quite as much as he
had been, but he's continuing to try to distance himself from the troubles at
his fellow media conglomerates.

Speaking at the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing's annual CTAM Summit in Boston, Karmazin
emphasized that Viacom avoided some of the businesses that are
dragging down companies like AOL Time Warner Inc. and The Walt Disney Co.

While over the past several months, Viacom executives emphasized that the
company's stock is performing better than those of its rivals, Karmazin said
neither he nor investors who have lost money on Viacom shares are
taking any consolation.

"We sort of look at our stock as compared to ourselves. We are extremely
disappointed. When our stock was $74 [per share], I truly saw $100 just around
the corner," he added.

Viacom's stock is now trading at around $39 per share.

Karmazin added that he does resent being compared to other troubled
media giants, like AOL Time Warner. "We're not in the ISP [Internet-service provider] business, we are not in the
cable-systems business, we are not in the magazine business. They get
two-thirds of their cash flow from businesses that Viacom is not even in," he added.

Disney, Karmazin said, derives 50 percent of its earnings from its theme-park business. "So why is it necessary for somebody to compare us
to Disney, or Vivendi [Universal], or AOL, or some of these
other companies?" he asked.

Karmazin said that despite Viacom's sunken stock price, the company has
enough cash and cash flow to keep him interested in chasing acquisitions,
but they have to meet three basic criteria. A target would have to be in
Viacom's core media competency, it would have to have a cash-flow-growth rate comparable with
the company's existing portfolio and the price has to be right.

Karmazin acknowledged, for example, that Viacom bid on Chicago United Paramount Network
affiliate WPWR-TV. But Viacom wasn't willing to come anywhere near the $425
million in cash offered by News Corp.'s Fox Television. "They were $100
million different from where we saw the value," he added.

Karmazin expressed annoyance at the accounting and fraud scandals that
have tanked so many stocks. "These bad people that are legitimately proven
to have done something wrong, they ought to go to jail. They shouldn't
go to one of these country-club jails -- they should go to Sing Sing."

Asked later if that included Adelphia Communications Corp. founder John
Rigas, Karmazin replied that Rigas hasn't been proven guilty of
anything.

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