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Besides buying the rest of NBCUniversal, Comcast agreed to pay GE another $1.4 billion for other assets that include one of New York’s best-known landmarks, NBC’s headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The building also was the setting for the NBC comedy series "30 Rock," a fictional version of the broadcast network that skewered the management of both GE and Comcast before airing its final episode two weeks ago.
By selling the rest of its NBCUniversal stake, GE is unraveling part of the legacy of ex-Chairman Jack Welch. In 1986 he bought RCA and NBC to help his industrial conglomerate get a reliable source of cash while overseas manufacturing competition loomed.
NBC still as proud as a peacock
From radio powerhouse to must-see TV, NBC has long been a key broadcasting player. › E3
Getting cash sooner rather than later made GE a motivated seller this time. The company plans to use the money to buy back stock and "to invest in our industrial business," GE CEO Jeff Immelt said in a statement Tuesday.
Comcast, which is based in Philadelphia, said it would finance the deal with $11.4 billion of cash on hand, $4 billion in debt owed to GE, $2 billion from its own credit lines and $725 million in preferred stock issued to GE. In issuing new debt notes to GE, Comcast is able to lock in today’s historically low interest rates. It also gives a use for the $5.3 billion it raised from the sale of wireless spectrum to Verizon and its stake in the A&E TV networks to Disney and Hearst last year.
Comcast’s stock closed Friday at $41.24, up 90 cents, or 2.3 percent. In trading earlier in the week, it hit $42, matching an all-time high set in March 1999. GE’s stock closed Friday down 12 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $23.29, after earlier in the week reaching $23.48, the highest level for the stock since 2008.
GE’s history with NBC goes back to 1919, when it co-founded the Radio Corporation of America. RCA created NBC in 1926 as the nation’s first radio network, figuring that people would buy its radios if they had interesting things to listen to. RCA took full ownership of NBC in 1932.
The network began TV broadcasts in 1939 and produced TV’s first star in 1948 when Berle became a beloved figure. GE bought NBC back in 1986 for the cash flow. Though it faced fierce competition over the decades, NBC was formidable in the 1990s, with Thursdays declared a "must-see" night of television.
As part of Comcast’s takeover, NBC Universal changed its corporate logo to NBCUniversal — without the space, the peacock or the globe silhouette. In December, as the network bounced back, Comcast appended NBC’s peacock logo to its corporate name in a new logo of its own.
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