Liberty Media‘s John Malone is famous for constructing Rube Goldberg-like deals that enable him to avoid taxes, or avoid regulator scrutiny. And the just-announced arrangement to spin off Starz will do nothing to change that reputation. When it’s done, Starz will be part of a separate company with two classes of stock that will trade on NASDAQ as STRZA and STRZB. The FTC just endorsed the plan, which Liberty announced in August. The simple way of looking at it is that the Starz shares will be granted as a dividend to investors who own Liberty Media shares as of January 11. But that isn’t precisely accurate. The deal is being structured as though Starz is spinning off Liberty. So the Starz assets will remain with the Liberty Media corporate entity — which will change its name to Starz. What about all of the other assets including Liberty’s interests in the Atlanta Braves, Sirius XM, Live Nation, Barnes & Noble, Time Warner, and Viacom? They’ll go into a new entity that will briefly be called Liberty Spinco; its shares will be distributed to Liberty Media shareholders beginning on Monday and will briefly trade under the symbols LMCAD and LMCBD. That company will then change its name to Liberty Media, and on January 22 will be traded under the company’s current symbols: LMCA and LMCB. Once the split is complete don’t be surprised if you hear a lot of speculation about who might buy Liberty Media, I mean, Starz. Whatever.
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