Entertainer Bill Cosby, who led NBC to the top of the TV ratings in the 1980s with "The Cosby Show," recently discussed the possibility of buying the network.
Cosby had at least one meeting with NBC President Robert Wright, but he backed away after his financial partners soured on the deal, according to industry sources.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday October 29, 1992 Home Edition Business Part D Page 2 Column 3 Financial Desk 1 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction
NBC--Entertainer Bill Cosby and NBC Entertainment President Warren Littlefield deny that relations between them are strained, as was reported in Wednesday's editions.
"He thought about the possibility of buying the network, and he made some inquiries," said one executive who asked not to be named. "But it was a whim, and now it's dead."
Cosby declined comment on the report, as did NBC. But one source identified former Fox Chairman Barry Diller as one of Cosby's partners. Diller, who refused comment, has been mentioned as a possible buyer of NBC several times in the past. Sources say that Paramount Communications has also held discussions with NBC's parent, General Electric.
GE is rumored to be seeking a buyer for NBC because of the downturn in the network television business. This season, NBC lags behind ABC and CBS in the ratings. The network is valued at $4 billion on GE's books, but analysts say it is worth about $1 billion less.
One scenario has GE spinning NBC off to its shareholders in a deal that would put Diller at the helm of the network. Paramount has declined comment on reports that it is discussing an outright purchase.
Cosby is widely known as one of America's wealthiest and most popular entertainers. Forbes magazine estimates his net worth at about $300 million.
Cosby is known to be personally close to NBC's Wright. On the other hand, he's said to have strained relations with NBC entertainment chief Warren Littlefield, who replaced Brandon Tartikoff in the waning years of "The Cosby Show."