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Comcast Execs Are Far From the Action

March 03, 2004|Sallie Hofmeister | Times Staff Writer

Comcast Corp.'s Brian Roberts wasn't rolling out the red carpet this week when Walt Disney Co. pulled into Philadelphia for its annual shareholders meeting.

In fact, the chief executive of the Philadelphia-based cable giant that has launched an unsolicited takeover bid for Disney wasn't even in town.

Roberts and 500 of the company's top brass were huddled at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix for a long-planned three-day retreat.

Executives were entertained by political satirist Bill Maher and Bon Jovi. One panel included Viacom Inc. President Mel Karmazin, InterActiveCorp chief Barry Diller and cable mogul John Malone. The first question posed to them by moderator and CNN talk show host Larry King: "Should Comcast buy Disney?" The moguls agreed: Only for the right price, according to people present.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was expected to speak today. Sources close to Comcast say the program was shrouded in secrecy to prevent speculation. Wall Street has been spinning about the possibility of Microsoft helping Comcast sweeten its bid.

Back in Philadelphia, Comcast was not on the sidelines altogether. Comcast recently accumulated some 2 million Disney shares, allowing it to gain entrance to the meeting. Bets are good that Comcast will oppose Michael Eisner's reelection.

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