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Major Holder Denies That FNN Is for Sale

Times Staff Writer

The major shareholder in Financial News Network denied Thursday that its 45% stake is on the auction block, contrary to a published report that set off a buying spree in FNN shares.

However, Dr. Earl Brian, chairman of both FNN and its biggest shareholder, Infotechnology Inc., acknowledged talking about “joint programming initiatives” with outside media firms. These, according to previous reports, have included major television networks.

In an interview Thursday, Brian said pointedly that anyone interested in such an enterprise might want to accrue “a large minority position” by buying FNN shares in the public market.

Dow Jones & Co., which publishes the Wall Street Journal, withheld all comment Thursday on the published report that it was talking with FNN and was interested in buying Infotechnology’s stake.

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Meanwhile, FNN’s stock price jumped for the second consecutive day on unusually heavy volume. Its shares, which rose 75 cents on Wednesday, rose another $1.625 Thursday to close at $8.375 on 1.4 million shares traded in the over-the-counter market. At one point in the session, FNN traded as high as $8.625.

FNN, which broadcasts 18 hours of business news each weekday on cable TV, goes into 32 million homes, according to Brian.

Several months ago NBC announced plans to launch a competing business news program on cable--around the clock and seven days a week. Latest estimates are that it is to start in April.

Since September, FNN has been the subject of rumors and reports that it was talking to various media companies about joint programming ventures and/or investing in FNN.

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‘No Plans’ to Sell

Brian, who last February took control of United Press International when his group bought the news agency for $55 million, has not been inclined to speak publicly about negotiations involving FNN.

In the wake of Thursday’s rumors, however, Brian was more talkative.

Stating firmly that Infotechnology has “no plans” to sell its FNN interest, he added that he seriously doubts anyone would offer what he thinks it is worth.

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That said, Brian asserted that he is “certain” that anyone who is attracted to join FNN in program development and distribution “would want to have an interest in the company.”

In such case, he said, someone probably would want to accrue a large minority stock position as a means of helping the enterprise. But, he added, anyone would probably only pursue this course after ascertaining that he had “a good working relationship with management or the major shareholder.”

Brian declined to name companies that have shown interest in a partnership with FNN. But he also did not deny public speculation that they have included CBS, ABC and even NBC, as well as Turner Broadcasting, Time Inc. and now Dow Jones.


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