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Malone makes share plans with Discovery’s Zaslav, Liberty’s Fries

John Malone

John Malone

Media mogul John Malone has given right of first refusal to his holdings in Discovery Communications and Liberty Global to the respective companies’ CEOs.

The move has been widely seen as 72 year-old Malone’s first steps in laying out a succession plan for his global media empire.

Discovery chief exec David Zaslav will get a first look at Malone’s 29% (US$500 million [€364 million]) stake in the factual channels operator, while Mike Fries have a similar arrangement in regards to his 27% (US$800 million) stake in Liberty, according to an SEC filing made yesterday.

Furthermore, both Zaslav and Fries will now have the option to vote Malone’s Class B shares in the event the investor decides against voting on board-level decisions at the respective firms. The latter filing made no mention of Malone US-based Liberty Media unit.

This comes soon after Zaslav’s tenure as CEO of Discovery was extended to the end of 2019. His new agreement with Malone is only applicable if he remains chief exec and/or on the Discovery board.

Discovery operates global cable nets such as Discovery Channel, TLC and Eurosport, while Liberty operates cable platforms around the world such as Virgin Media and recently agreed to buy Dutch platform Ziggo.

However, Malone told the Wall Street Journal he was not planning on stepping back from either company at present.

“I have no plans to transfer any of my voting shares and plan on staying actively involved in both Liberty Global and Discovery Communications going forward,” he said.

“But, in the event I do in the future decide to pursue the sale of my voting position, I am excited about providing these two strong executives, who have both created significant shareholder value, with a path toward acquiring that stake and preserving the long-termstability and continuity of the companies they have built and will continue leading into the future.”