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Media Moguls: Now’s Not Looking Good For Big Deals — And That Includes NBC

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Not that this will shock anyone, but with Wall St. falling off the high wire, this is unlikely to be a a period of big time dealmaking. Speaking at a breakfast sponsored by Portfolio, media bigs Mel Karmazin, Jeff Zucker and Steve Rattner (Quadrangle), agreed that a slow period for deals will only get slower. Said Rattner: “It’s been an incredibly slow year for the media M&A landscape and I think what’s happened in the last few days is simply going to exacerbate that. Big deals today are not going to happen. They’re simply not going to happen.” Karmazin — who has watched shares of Sirius (NSDQ: SIRI) slip below $1 since his merger with XM (NSDQ: XMSR) — didn’t predict a total deal freeze, but said any financing would come at a steep price (that’s been the story for awhile, even before all the latest).

The panel moderator, Portfolio’s Joanne Lipman, tried prodding the trio into predicting when deals would come back, but despite several attempts, they never took the bait. Karmazin said it would happen when sellers fully ratcheted down their price expectations.

NBCU sale?: Naturally, since Jeff Zucker was in the house, this had to come up. Zucker had little new to offer (“it’s unlikely”), and Rattner added that there isn’t a likely buyer, even if GE wanted to sell: “The market’s not really happy with these companies [i.e., the big media conglomerates], and the idea that one of them would wake up one day and say ‘Let’s go do a $30 billion acquisition’ — it’s simply not happening.” Of course, GE is getting caught up in the downdraft on account of it being heavily involved in finance, so it may yet decide to shore up its capital.

*IAC* split: Rattner, an IAC (NSDQ: IACI) boardmember was apparently asked about IAC’s split, and though he said he couldn’t comment, he then offered the following: “I will say financial engineering is really not a way to create value for your shareholders or yourself or whoever your owners happen to be. Companies that buy or sell or spin off because they think the market doesn’t understand their multiple and so forth I think are really missing the point. I think at the end of the day, what really matters is running your company, building revenue, building cash flow, and ultimately that will create value and that value will be recognized. And spending your time getting lost in financial engineering is a real mistake.” Portfolio’s Jeff Bercovici notes that this this as a sharp critique of Diller’s split plan, though it could just as easily be referring to the process of building up Old IAC with its Liberty Media-infused dealmaking and financial engineering ethos.