Ted Turner will not join the bidding war over Paramount Communications Inc., at least not for now.
The media mogul waved the white flag Wednesday as he arrived at a cable TV industry banquet here. “I’m calling it off temporarily,” he said. In a symbolic gesture, he entered the black-tie gathering alongside QVC Chairman Barry Diller, who has offered $9.5 billion for Paramount.
Turner, also accompanied by his wife, actress Jane Fonda, said he has decided to devote his attention to his Atlanta Braves baseball team, which is closing in on a playoff berth. He would not go into further detail, but people close to the discussions speculated that Turner was unable to line up the financing to make a serious run at Paramount.
For now, Diller remains the only hostile bidder for the entertainment conglomerate, which has accepted an $8.2-billion offer from Viacom Inc. But all the players’ stocks rose Wednesday on speculation that the offers will be sweetened or that other bidders may jump in.
Paramount climbed 87.5 cents to $77.875 a share on the New York Stock Exchange. Viacom’s Class A shares jumped $2.125 to $58.875 a share on the American Stock Exchange. QVC shot up $3.875 to $60 a share on the Nasdaq.
QVC’s rise, after an earlier decline, seemed to signal gathering Wall Street support for Diller’s bid. Diller believes that combining Paramount’s film and TV assets with QVC’s home shopping operation would create a modern media powerhouse.
“I’m excited about the possibility of Diller and Malone running QVC,” said Paine Webber analyst Craig Bibb. “It’s very early in the process. I don’t think you’ve seen all the bidders yet and don’t know what QVC would ultimately have to pay for those assets.”
Paramount has said its board will evaluate the QVC offer soon, but a spokesman would not say when that meeting would occur.
One source close to the discussions said the drama could reach a conclusion within two weeks. Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but in earlier statements he has indicated that his company will not back down. Redstone has also expressed confidence that a “lockup” provision in the offer gives him the upper hand.
One company that will not be bidding is Germany’s Bertelsmann Music Group. The company was quoted Wednesday as saying it is not interested in Paramount.
There was no further word on reports that Ameritech Inc., the Chicago-based telephone company, might become a partner in Viacom’s bid, although Viacom was quoted as saying it intends to proceed alone for now. Sources report that Viacom has put out feelers to several telephone companies, but has encountered resistance because of regulatory concerns.
Noticeably absent Wednesday from the Walter Kaitz Foundation dinner, one of the biggest cable industry events of the year, was Tele-Communications Inc. Chief Executive John Malone. He was believed to have left New York for his vacation home in Maine.
Malone, as a part owner of QVC through his Liberty Media Corp., is an important Diller backer. Liberty and Comcast, another partner, have pledged $1 billion toward the deal. Likewise, Malone may have discouraged Turner’s entering the bidding as a 24.7% owner of Turner Broadcasting.
Harris reported from New York. Lippman reported from Los Angeles.