The Sirius XM CEO isn’t sure that John Malone’s Liberty Media will want him to stay after it owns more than 50% of the satellite radio company’s stock — something that could happen as early as today. “My instincts are that Liberty does not need me,” Mel Karmazin said at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference. “I have historically been expensive…That’s OK with Mel.” But he also says that he’s “open to having a conversation” about staying after. For example, if Liberty decides to spin off Sirius XM then “that would be a situation I might be interested in.” Karmazin says there’s been “no dialogue whatsoever about me coming or going,” including with Sirius XM’s existing board. His current contract expires in December. If he signed a new deal while the company’s future is in flux then “it would look [to shareolders] like I sold out.”
Liberty invested $530M in Sirius XM in 2009, when the broadcaster was in danger of defaulting on its debt. That stake was equal to about 40% of the equity. It’s been buying additional shares in the open market and now has more than 49%. Karmazin says Malone could cross the 50% threshold at any time. “They don’t have to wait for FCC approval.” Regulators then could transfer control of Sirius XM’s broadcast licenses by the end of the year. If there’s a delay, Karmazin said he’d be willing to extend his current employment agreement “if it ensures a smoother transition.”
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