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TCI'S DIVIDE AND CONQUER PLOY
John Malone, chief of cable giant Tele-Communications Inc., loves doing deals. So soon, TCI officials say, Malone will restructure his $4.2 billion company into four distinct units, a maneuver that could allow him to raise deal money more easily. The units: TCI's 10 million cable subscribers, its growing overseas operations, new high-tech ventures, and programming (such as the piece of Turner Broadcasting that TCI owns). It all shows that Malone is raring to go after TCI's megamerger with Bell Atlantic fell apart earlier this year.
This isn't just box-shuffling. Analysts believe the separate, more focused operations will better attract investors. PaineWebber's Christopher Dixon figures TCI could raise billions by selling a 20% or 30% stake in its cable systems to AT&T or Microsoft. The hottest buzz is that Malone's programming unit would be a financing vehicle to help someone, perhaps Ted Turner or Barry Diller, buy a stake in CBS or another broadcast network. As usual, Malone is mum.Edited by Larry Light and Julie Tilsner By Ronald Grover