As the CEO of a publicly traded company, Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes is, as he protested to Portfolio's Lloyd Grove, obligated to consider strategic acquisitions as they become available. So he had to say, when Grove asked, that he'd consider buying NBC Universal if GE decided to spin off the media company. But he didn't have to so mildly rebuke speculation he was "intrigued" by such a deal, or go on at such length about the possibility:
L.G.: Well, they keep saying, they won't.
J.B.: I know. If they did, they have a taxable sale or something, so I don't want to prejudge them, but they have to decide what's in their interest. But if they decided not to sell it, they may decide to spin it off, who knows?
...We already said that we have kind of an obligation to look at anything that is out there that, if combined with our company, would produce a clear return for our shareholders. The problem with those speculations is that no one ever knows the price at which any of these things would be available. And we're kind of a big media company—at the lead if not the lead in most of the markets, from movie production, TV production, networks, magazine publishing. So if something comes up in one of those, we are an obvious candidate to consolidate and operate those businesses. We'd have to look at all of them, we will look at all things that happen. That does not mean we'll do them...
That's the kind of answer that gets you your own "FLASH" report on Drudge and sparks fresh speculation about an acquisition, even if NBC chief Jeff Zucker just swatted down takeover talk at a Portfolio forum this morning.
It was nearly a year ago now that an anonymously-sourced Financial Times report had GE planning to evaluate NBC's future at the conclusion of the Beijing Olympics in August. The conglomerate famously likes all of its divisions to be number one or number two in their sectors, and it was said to be unhappy with NBC's performance and fit with the rest of the company.