Columnist Lee Schafer provides short takes on economic incentives and choices, business strategy and performance, market moves, what business leaders are saying and doing and other topics that pique his interest.

How will Comcast vote its ValueVision shares?

Posted by: Lee Schafer Updated: June 13, 2014 - 4:52 PM

It’s coming down to the wire on the vote for the board members at ValueVision Media, and one of the most interesting questions is whether the decisive votes will be cast by somebody who maybe shouldn’t even vote – Comcast Corp., the cable TV giant.

ValueVision is also in the TV business, of course, as a TV shopping retailer. It’s had a long history with NBC, and until recently its shopping channels were known as ShopNBC.

Comcast acquired the relationship with ValueVision in its two-step purchase of NBC from General Electric. As of the last report, Comcast owned about 14.3 percent of the outstanding common stock of Eden Prairie-based ValueVision. GE remains in the relationship as well.

The activist campaign of Clinton Group to oust the board has been going on for months. Only shareholders with an appetite for tedium could have gotten through every page of all the filings.

Clinton’s effort now presents a choice for Comcast, although it is no ordinary shareholder. Through a shareholder agreement it has rights other shareholders do not have and has a cable distribution agreement with ValueVision to carry its shows.

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a scenario in which Comcast decides it has to vote to oust the board. It’s in business with ValueVision. It's has had executives on the ValueVision board during the tenure of the CEO Clinton Group has said also needs to go.

It would be more than a vote against a partner; it would be a vote against itself.

Oddly, however, voting for the incumbents also doesn’t seem to be a comfortable choice. Comcast has a distribution agreement with ValueVision. It gets paid to carry the company’s shows. And the activist campaign is about the performance of the company over time, which Comcast may not care to be seen as defending. 

The best option may be to abstain.

How Comcast votes won’t be disclosed -- although it’ll probably be apparent if more than 7 million shares show up in the abstention column.

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