* Liberty in no rush to exit Sirius XM stake - CEO
* Liberty close to owning 50 pct of Sirius XM
* Sirius XM's CEO Karmazin may leave
By Liana B. Baker
Sept 12 As Liberty Media Corp inches
closer to full control of Sirius XM Radio Inc, the
media holding company said on Wednesday it may hang on to its
shares of the satellite radio provider for the long term and not
pursue a spinoff.
"We are in no rush to get out of the Sirius stake," Liberty
Media Chief Executive Greg Maffei said on Wednesday. He said
that Sirius XM, which has more than 22.9 million subscribers,
could one day make up the core of Liberty.
Liberty owns stakes in a variety of businesses, including
book retailer Barnes & Noble Inc and concert promoter
Live Nation Entertainment Inc, and smaller stakes in
others including cable television company Discovery
Communications Inc. It is known for engineering
complicated deal structures that minimize taxes.
Speaking to investors at a conference in California that was
broadcast over the Internet, Maffei said a tax-free spinoff --
an event that Wall Street had been expecting -- could be further
off on the horizon.
"At some point (a spinoff) may become logical but I don't
see that as something we need to get done in the near term,"
Liberty, controlled by billionaire chairman John Malone,
acquired an initial stake of about 40 percent in Sirius in 2009
as part of a deal in which it loaned the satellite radio
provider $530 million to help stave off bankruptcy.
It acquired more shares in the open market in recent months
and said it plans to boost its stake above 50 percent. As of
this week, it held at least 49 percent of Sirius XM shares,
according to regulatory filings.
In August, Liberty Media filed a new application with the
U.S. Federal Communications Commission to take control of Sirius
XM. The FCC has so far not responded to Liberty's application.
Maffei said on Wednesday that Liberty is seeking a hearing
at the FCC as soon as possible.
Maffei's comments come just hours after Sirius XM Chief
Executive Mel Karmazin told investors at the same conference
that he may leave the company when his contract expires at the
end of the year.
"I am certainly open to having a conversation but certainly
my instincts today are that Liberty does not need me at the
company," Karmazin said.
He added that he would be more interested in staying if
Liberty spins off Sirius XM to public shareholders and does not
remain the controlling shareholder of the satellite radio
As for Liberty's plans once it gains control of Sirius XM,
Maffei said his company would push Sirius to use the technology
it has developed internally.
Maffei said that Liberty Media Corp is still planning to
spin off its premium pay-TV network Starz LLC into a separate
public company. Starz, which runs the eponymous movie and TV
channels as well as Encore-branded movie channels, will become a
separate listed company with about $1.5 billion of debt.
Regarding a sale of Starz, Maffei said on Wednesday that
"we're are a long way down the road from somebody approaching
Sirius shares closed down 3 percent at $2.43 on Wednesday,
while Liberty shares slipped 0.75 percent to $102.52.