Liberty's Malone Still Aims for Sirius Spin
Outside the Duchin Lounge at the Sun Valley Resort on Wednesday evening, Liberty Media's John Malone sounded busy, with his investment in Sirius XM radio top of mind.
Malone's investment in Sirius was an alternative to bankruptcy, and now he wants control. Control he says he'll obtain through a tax-free Morris Trust spin, the timing of such a transaction remaining uncertain.
"We are involved in negotiations about whether or not or how much a control premium [to effect a deal] would need to be," Malone said.
But it's Liberty that he says, with a roughly 46 percent interest in Sirius, that should get such a premium.
Other snags: Whether the US Federal Communications Commission, previously negative on such a deal, would wave it through. (For what it's worth, Malone mentioned having dinner with FCC chairman Julius Genachowski that evening at the Allen & Co. Conference, where Sirius came up.)
The merger of Sirius and XM in 2008 faced heightened regulatory scrutiny right at the onset of recession - crippling the new company's capital structure from the outset.
The biggest problems now facing a spin-off deal, according to Malone, are simply structural. He's known for only carrying out transactions when they're tax-free in nature — and Liberty's currently evaluating several of these options, some of which would involve a stock buyback.
Sirius XM stock currently trades at $2.03, up 1,930 percent from when Liberty made its investment at 10 cents a share on Feb. 17, 2009.
Malone remains happy with the status of other Liberty plays, such as Barnes & Noble . Though the original plan concerned a buyout, Liberty now holds convertible preferred shares, which they are "happy with."
"Barnes & Noble is an investment," Malone reiterated. "We have no plans to buy out the company."
Malone also remarked on Barnes & Noble's recent capital injection from Microsoft into its e-book business, a move that stoked investors hoping for a tech collaboration.
But much of that excitement was quelled when Microsoft unveiled its Surface tablet — without any Barnes & Noble team-up.
"I didn't expect Barnes & Noble to be part of that [product]," Malone said, unsurprised. "The same way you wouldn't see a Nook powered by Windows 8."
Finally, Malone reiterated that Live Nation — another Liberty investment — should be a private company.
Though Malone largely leaves Live Nation matters to his deputy Greg Maffei, Malone stated his reasoning simply: "I don't like to see the value of my assets moving up and down like elevators."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Sirius XM Radio's stock price is down 0.7 percent from when Liberty Media made its investment in the company. In fact, the stock price is up 1,930 percent.
-By CNBC's Kayla Tausche