Deal Nears: NBC Universal Board Set, With Comcast in Majority

Insiders says deal won’t be done this weekend, but it’s close.

Last Updated: December 3, 2009 @ 5:49 PM

The Comcast deal to buy 51% of NBC Universal from General Electric inches nearer, but there is still no clarity on when it will definitively close.

Reuters is reporting that the two sides have agreed on the composition of the new board of directors, in which Comcast will hold a majority. An executive close to the negotiations confirmed the report, saying the board of the joint venture would have just five members.

We already know that they have agreed on a valuation of about $30 billion for the company comprising the TV network, cable channels and movie studio. And we know that Jeff Zucker is set to keep his job running the place, but that he will report to Steve Burke, chief operating officer of Comcast.

One thing holding up a close of the deal is the role of Vivendi, which owns 20 percent of NBC Universal. Vivendi has until Dec. 10 to exercise its put to sell that stake. The French company has been holding out, naturally, to get the best possible price for its slice of the NBCU pie — and it is in an excellent position to leverage that position at the moment.

The $30 billion Comcast-GE valuation would put Vivendi’s 20 percent in NBC Universal at $6 billion and “appears to be at the upper end of expectations, which is positive news for Vivendi,” Stephan Haber, a credit analyst at Unicredit Group in Munich, wrote on Nov. 10, Bloomberg reported. “However, the main question remains: What is Vivendi going to do with these disposal proceeds?”

Reuters also reported that former News Corp. executive Peter Chernin, who has been advising Comcast, will not be on the new board.