Warner Cable Unit Object of Several Suitors

Times Staff Writer

Warner Amex Cable Communications, widely assumed to be for sale, acknowledged Tuesday that it has received “several expressions of interest to purchase all or part” of the company, including its two-thirds stake in MTV Networks.

Warner Amex said some proposals involve “the respective management groups,” but it refused to identify the potential bidders.

The New York-based company, jointly owned by Warner Communications and American Express, reported pretax losses of $94 million in 1984 and $150 million in 1983. The company said its parent companies have not yet reacted to the overtures.

American Express said last February that it was reconsidering its investment, and Warner Communications is also believed willing to sell because Warner Chairman Steven J. Ross reportedly is seeking ways to finance a leveraged buy-out of Warner Communications. Some observers estimate that a Warner Amex sale would generate about $375 million for Warner after the repayment of the cable company’s $550-million debt.


Drew Lewis, who quit his post as President Reagan’s transportation secretary in 1983 to take the helm of Warner Amex, reportedly has been trying to assemble an investor group to take the company private.

More recently, however, Viacom International has been named in some published reports as another candidate interested in buying all or part of the cable-TV company. Viacom already owns half of Showtime/The Movie Channel, a pay-TV service in which Warner Amex holds a 19% stake.

Boston Ventures Limited Partnership and top MTV executives are bidding for the two-thirds stake owned by Warner Amex, according to the current issue of Advertising Age, a trade publication.

MTV, formerly a Warner Amex subsidiary, began trading shares publicly last year. It is headed by David H. Horowitz, a former co-chief operating officer of Warner Communications.


MTV operates three cable-TV programming services: MTV Music Television, a rock music channel; Nickelodeon, a children’s channel, and VH-1, a music channel targeted toward viewers aged 25 to 49.

Neither Horowitz, Lewis nor top Viacom officials were available Tuesday for comment.

Two industry sources said Warner Amex continues to seek a buyer for its Dallas cable-TV system and has set an asking price of about $125 million.

Ken Lerer, a Warner Amex vice president, said Tuesday that the cable company “has circulated some financials on the Dallas system” but that he couldn’t confirm the asking price.