EXCLUSIVE: As we watch Rupert Murdoch attempt a colossal Time Warner takeover, who better to evaluate its merit than Jerry Levin. He steered Time Warner as chairman/CEO for many years, adding Ted Turner and AOL along the way. A retired philanthropist and chairman of StartUp Health, Levin is still paying attention and is therefore better suited than most to explain the complexities of Murdoch’s ambitious plan and its far-reaching impact. He was gracious with his time and wasn’t interested in sugarcoating, so buckle up.
DEADLINE: Rupert Murdoch sees a match in Fox and Time Warner. All I see is a collision of duplicative assets, pink slips, two major studios making fewer movies, and nothing here that empowers creativity. Obviously I’m naive. What value do you see in a union between Fox and Time Warner?
JERRY LEVIN: None at all. It provides great theater; everybody gets excited when there are large transactions in the offing with iconic brands. But the fact is, it makes no sense, culturally or creatively. It’s not good for movies, and television, and storytelling. All it is is a financial construct that gets Wall Street going with valuations. It is so disruptive, particularly when you’re talking about two studios with vastly different cultures of their own. When you put these things together, usually there’s a push from Wall Street to cut back and make sure there are the right synergies, which there usually aren’t. It just means a lack of focus and trying to harmonize the cultures, particularly in this case, it doesn’t make any sense to me at all. (more…)