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John Malone has given Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav and Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries the right of first refusal to buy his voting stakes in the companies in what is seen as a succession planning move.
The news came in regulatory filings late Tuesday. Malone, 72, controls a 27 percent voting stake in international cable operator Liberty Global and a 29 percent voting stake in cable networks firm Discovery.
The Discovery filing said that Zaslav would now get to vote Malone’s stake, currently worth around $500 million, “in the event that Mr. Malone is not voting the shares.”
If and when Malone decides to sell his Discovery stake, Zaslav will get the first shot at negotiating a deal for them.
The Liberty Global arrangement with Fries for Malone’s stake, currently worth around $800 million, works in a similar way.
Malone’s Liberty Media didn’t immediately disclose a similar arrangement.
Malone doesn’t plan to immediately step back from his work at his companies though.
“Nothing is changing right now,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “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. 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-term stability and continuity of the companies they have built and will continue leading into the future.”
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