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Kellner to Get $80M-Plus for Stake in WB

Kellner to Get $80M-Plus for Stake in WB By CARLOS MARTINEZ Staff Reporter AOL-Time Warner has agreed to pay a reported $80 million to $90 million for the 11-percent stake in The WB Network that network CEO and Turner Broadcasting System Chairman Jamie Kellner and a handful of other network executives still hold. As a result, Kellner told reporters Nov. 13, he will remain as network CEO and chairman of AOL-Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting System through 2004 when his contract expires. Brad Turell, a spokesman for the network, said Kellner had a clause in his contract when he took over TBS in 2001 that required him to sell his stake in the WB, which he launched in 1995, to AOL-Time Warner by January. At this point, AOL-Time Warner owns 64 percent of the WB and Chicago-based Tribune Co. 25 percent. Last June, Kellner pulled two new action cartoon shows from the Cartoon Network so they would not compete with the WB’s slate of action cartoon shows. At the time, Kellner’s decision reportedly angered some at TBS, which operates Cartoon Network, because they believed he was favoring the WB at the expense of TBS channels. Adding more fuel to the fire was his decision to show “The Wizard of Oz” on the WB this fall ahead of its traditional annual run on TNT. Although Kellner denied any favoritism, the issue came as some analysts worry about whether Kellner’s stake in the network is a factor in his decision making. “It just doesn’t look good from the outside,” said Tom Wolzien, an analyst with Bernstein & Co. Kellner also owns 5.6 percent of Santa Ana-based Acme Communications Inc., a publicly held company that has 12 television stations that carry the WB signal. That arrangement also makes some AOL-Time Warner investors nervous, said Timothy Wallace, a media analyst for Banc of America Securities. But Jack Myers, media analyst and publisher of the media newsletter The Jack Myers Report, said much of the talk about Kellner’s loyalties is overstated. “He’s as upstanding as they come,” Myers said. “Everything he has done has been a benefit to Turner and the WB and not to himself.” Kellner, who still oversees the WB’s operation from his Atlanta office, also helped launch the Fox Broadcasting Co. in 1987.

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