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Abc Attorney Moves On : Erlick Shifts His Career Gears

December 19, 1985|JAY SHARBUTT | Times Staff Writer

Shortly after New Year's Day, Everett H. Erlick, chief attorney for ABC Inc. since 1972, will start a new career as counsel for the prestigious Washington law firm of Arnold & Porter, working mostly on communications matters.

But, he says, he'll keep a hand in at his old company, whose $3.5-billion takeover by Capital Cities Communications now is scheduled for completion by Jan. 3.

When that is done, he said Tuesday in a phone interview from New York, he'll become a consultant to the new company, to be called Capital Cities/ABC Inc.

"I won't really be leaving (ABC), and I'm delighted that Murph and Dan Burke want me to remain as a consultant," he said, referring to Capital Cities Board Chairman Thomas S. Murphy and Capital Cities President Daniel B. Burke.

Erlick had said in August that he planned to resign as ABC's chief attorney, both because he wanted new challenges and because ABC Board Chairman Leonard Goldenson--who brought him to the company in 1959--won't be running it anymore.

He declined to comment, other than to say that it had surprised him, on an even larger broadcast takeover announced last week--General Electric's proposed $6.28-billion acquisition of RCA and that company's subsidiary, NBC.

The GE proposal, hailed by RCA executives, was the third takeover bid involving a major network this year. The first was Ted Turner's attempt to buy CBS Inc.

CBS fought off Turner, but had to buy back an estimated $1 billion of its shares, lay off some of its staff--74 at CBS News and 40 in its records division--and sell some assets to help pay for its victory.

While all three takeover proposals have been highly publicized, they are not the sort of thing that is new to Erlick.

In the 1960s, he had a front-row corporate seat during no less than three attempts to buy all or part of ABC. The efforts included an attempt by billionaire Howard Hughes to purchase 40% of the company, and a similar bid by industrialist Norton Simon.

ABC successfully resisted those attempts, but had welcomed the one that started them all: the proposed friendly takeover of the company by giant ITT in 1965. The offer was small potatoes compared to the billion-dollar figures that are bandied about now.

ITT proposed buying ABC for $400 million, Erlick recalled.

But its offer, made at a time when ABC was struggling in the ratings and strapped for cash after its costly conversion to color television, drew strong opposition on antitrust grounds from the Justice Department, and from some members of Congress who cited other reasons.

After protracted court battles with the Justice Department, ITT finally gave up and withdrew its proposal in 1968.

"A long engagement is often fatal, as you well know," Erlick wryly said in the soft accent of his native Birmingham, Ala. "The delay soured the deal . . . but actually it was probably the luckiest thing that could have happened to ABC."

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