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Mel may have a tough job hunt
Analysts see no need for Karmazin at Disney or other media conglomerates.
June 1, 2004: 5:35 PM EDT
By Chris Isidore, CNN/Money senior writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Outgoing Viacom President Mel Karmazin is free to work for any of his former competitors. But they may have no need for his particular set of talents, analysts said, despite his strong reputation on Wall Street.

"There's no obvious open slot," said Guzman & Co. media analyst David Joyce.

Karmazin, who resigned Tuesday as president and chief operating officer of Viacom Inc. (VIA.B: down $0.39 to $36.50, Research, Estimates), doesn't have a non-compete clause in his contract with the media conglomerate. But despite continued management turmoil at Walt Disney Co. and statements by Disney dissident shareholders that he belongs on the "short list" for CEO succession, analysts do not expect to see him running a media conglomerate of his own any time soon.

One problem with Karmazin landing at any of the other major media conglomerates is that none of them have Viacom's dependence on advertising revenue. Karmazin is seen as the ultimate ad salesman by analysts, but not necessarily as the man who could turn around Disney theme parks or movie studios at Disney or other conglomerates.

"I see his expertise as a business I see in decline broadcast assets," said Todd Mitchell, analyst with Blaylock & Partners. "I'm sure he has a strong skill set, but I'm not sure he has the vision thing these companies are looking for going forward."

In fact some analysts think it's more likely Karmazin may try to head up a new investor group to buy Viacom's radio and outdoor advertising assets. Viacom Chairman and CEO Sumner Redstone said Tuesday that the company will be reviewing the performance of various assets and he suggested it wouldn't be opposed to selling radio.

"I wouldn't be at all surprised to see radio and outdoor come up for sale, and Mel using some of his money to buy them again, if for no other reason than to show he can make it work," said independent media analyst Dennis McAlpine.

Where could he go? Or not...

There is mounting shareholder pressure on competitor Walt Disney Co. to replace CEO Michael Eisner, who was stripped of his chairman title at the company's March annual shareholder meeting. And shares of Disney (DIS: up $0.37 to $23.84, Research, Estimates) were up about nearly 2 percent in early trading Tuesday on news of Karmazin's sudden availability. But the stock soon lost much of its gain and was little changed in afternoon New York trading.

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"It's hard to picture him being at Disney," said Joyce. "The Disney board has been vocal in backing Eisner and (Disney No. 2 Robert) Iger and their succession plans."

In fact, Disney chairman George Mitchell said Tuesday he was confident in the current management.

Karmazin was a key player in the successful integration of CBS Corp. into Viacom in 2000, as well as in the acquisition of his Infinity Broadcasting by CBS in 1996. But the two Viacom competitors that recently made major acquisitions both already have their media management teams basically in place.

News Corp. (NWS: Research, Estimates) bought satellite television provider DirecTV while General Electric Co. (GE: Research, Estimates) bought many of the U.S. assets of Vivendi Universal and is combining them with its NBC television networks.

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The same is true at Time Warner Inc. (TWX: Research, Estimates), parent company of CNN/Money, which went through a difficult merger with America Online in 2001. But while its stock is still down by nearly two-thirds from pre-merger levels, it has climbed about 70 percent off its early 2003 lows under the management team put in place in mid-2002.

And Redstone also said he does not believe Karmazin would be going to a Viacom competitor.

"I wish him well, by the way. I don't see any particular place he would go to compete with us," he said in a conference call following the morning's announcements. "Let me say we can compete with anybody. We have in the past. We will in the future."  Top of page


-- Reuters contributed to this report.




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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.