Amid rumblings about investor activism involving a spinoff of HBO, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes is meeting with investors on the West Coast this week as part of sessions he’s conducted yearly following the Golden Globes, a person familiar with the matter told TheWrap.
The executive did not meet with top investors last week to head off potential calls to spin off or sell premium channel HBO, the same person told TheWrap, despite reports that he had done so.
Earlier Monday, the New York Post cited unnamed sources in reporting that Bewkes had planned to meet with one of the media company’s top investors last week and was scheduled for another such meeting this week. The report also didn’t disclose which top investors Bewkes would be meeting to head off the potential proxy fight.
The activity comes as Time Warner faces questions about its shareholder value in the new year. In 2014, Time Warner’s board rejected an unsolicited takeover bid from 21st Century Fox, dismissing the $85-a-share offer that valued the company at about $80 billion without holding formal negotiations. Time Warner shares ended last year at $64.67, raising questions about whether the move away from the bid was in the best interest of shareholder value.
Like most media companies with television properties, Time Warner struggled with stock-price pressure last year, as tough ratings and challenges to subscriber growth raised worries that cord-cutting was meaningfully eating away at the traditional TV business.
Last week, activist shareholder Corvex Management was said to be considering a campaign advocating Time Warner sell or spin off its pay-TV channel HBO. Corvex, which is run by Carl Icahn protege Keith Meister, was said to be “weighing a move,” the New York Post reported late on Thursday evening. The argument around HBO, which is a pioneer among traditional networks in launching standalone streaming option HBO NOW, is that spinning it off could unlock value like that has been pushing tech rival Netflix’s stock higher.
Netflix ended 2015 with the strongest share growth of any company in the S&P 500 index.
Corvex is run by Keith Meister, the former Carl Icahn lieutenant. Icahn had made a bid to break up Time Warner 10 years ago.