New York - Liberty Media chairman John Malone added fuel to speculation that its Starz premium channel may merge with another larger programmer after a planned spin-off later this year.
"Everybody can use a big brother," Malone said at Liberty's annual Investor Day meeting here Wednesday. "There are substantial synergies for Starz working together with various potential media partners. One of the opportunities that we are creating by separating it is for [Starz CEO] Chris [Albrecht] and the board to explore other relationships. Unfortunately, other than financial synergies, Liberty really can't provide Starz with much in the way of operational synergies in this space in the U.S."
Liberty announced its intention to spin out Starz into a separate publicly traded entity in August. The transaction would involve the distribution of shares in a new subsidiary to be called Liberty Media that would consist of all Liberty assets other than Starz -- including interests in Sirius XM Radio, Live Nation and Barnes & Noble, as well as its stake in the Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball team -- to current Liberty shareholders. Starz, about $1.5 billion in debt and an undetermined amount of cash would remain in the old entity, which would be renamed Starz and would trade under the symbols "STRZA" and "STRZB." The spin is expected to be completed before the end of the year.