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Liberty Asks FTC for Approval to Participate in Time Warner Voting

Feb 22, 2006  •  Post A Comment

John Malone’s Liberty Media said Wednesday that it wants a role in influencing strategy at Time Warner and has asked for federal approval to “participate actively” in important shareholder votes and actions.

Liberty owns a 4 percent stake in the media giant and is prohibited by the Federal Trade Commission from converting its stake into voting shares until February 2007.

However, the company has asked the FTC for the right to convert the nonvoting stake into voting shares on an accelerated basis and is arguing that because Liberty no longer has an interest in any United States-based cable systems the prohibition should be lifted.

“Liberty aims to convert its Time Warner stake to voting shares early to enable us to participate actively in key shareholder votes and actions,” said Liberty CEO-elect Greg Maffei. “We are pleased with the steps Time Warner has recently taken to enhance shareholder value, including the acceleration of its share repurchase program, and look forward to additional actions.”

The FTC imposed the order on Liberty in February 1997, when Liberty was a subsidiary of then-cable company Tele-Communications Inc., at the time the country’s largest cable operator.

Many of TCI’s assets have since been bought and sold, with many now making up cable systems owned by Comcast.

Liberty’s move comes less than a week after Time Warner’s management and billionaire financier Carl Icahn reached a truce ending a protracted proxy fight for control of the media giant during which Mr. Icahn had tried to oust Time Warner’s board so he could move forward with his plan to break up the company.

However, Mr. Icahn’s efforts fell short, generating little support from shareholders and significant criticism from Wall Street.