Time Warner Buys Stake in Court TV

May 12, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Time Warner has agreed to acquire the 50 percent of Court TV it doesn’t already own from Liberty Media for $735 million, the companies said Friday.

Court TV will operate as part of Turner Broadcasting System, reporting to entertainment group President Mark Lazarus, who is based in Atlanta.

Court TV staffers have been invited to a meeting with Turner executives in New York at 4 p.m., where they will find out which departments will be consolidated into Turner’s operations.

As reported earlier, Henry Schleiff will step down as CEO of Court TV. He will continue as non-executive chairman through the end of the year.

Mr. Schleiff said becoming part of Turner is in the best interest of Court TV. “It’s impossible to remain an independent out there,” he said, because of a lack of leverage with distributors and a lack of recognition by advertisers.

“We’ve taken it as far as we could,” he said. “Being a part of a larger group is essential to taking the next step. Court TV has a bright future.”

He said he does not know how many positions will be lost through consolidation when Court TV becomes a part of Turner.

Mr. Schleiff said he is leaving because he does not want to move to Atlanta and because he will now have less control over functions including affiliate relations and ad sales. He was accustomed to reporting to Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner president and chief operating officer, but will now report to Mr. Lazarus.

After joining Court TV in 1998, Mr. Schleiff saw distribution grow from 30 million to 86 million households, while viewership rose from 400,000 to 700,000 households and the value of the network climbed from $300 million to almost $1.5 billion.

Under his contract, Mr. Schlieff gets a percentage of that appreciation, but he declined to say exactly how much. “They’ve been very generous along the way,” he said.

Mr. Schleiff said he is interested in remaining in the cable business or some other aspect of the entertainment business.