Computer software giant Microsoft Corp. is in serious discussions with Turner Broadcasting System Inc. about acquiring a $1 billion to $2 billion stake in Turner, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.
The newspaper, quoting executives involved in the talks, said the investment could give Turner Chairman Ted Turner the firepower he needs to make a bid for CBS Inc. Turner has long sought a broadcast network but has been stymied thus far from following through on his plans.With Walt Disney Co. planning to merge with Capital Cities/ABC Inc. and Westinghouse Electric Co. announcing plans to acquire CBS Inc., the number of networks available is shrinking fast.
However, some industry experts speculate that Turner could still make a bid for CBS, provided he could come up with the cash and gain the approval from share-holders.
The Times said Turner and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates met recently in the Seattle area to discuss their plans.
A TBS spokesman declined to comment on the report. A Mi-crosoft spokeswoman said the story was based on "rumor and speculation" and declined to comment further.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Saturday that Turner is working with former junk bond king Michael Milken to find a way to finance a bid for CBS. When Milken was still at the now-defunct Drexel Burnham Lambert, he represented Turner in its purchase of the MGM/UA Entertainment Co.
The TBS spokesman also declined to comment on that report but acknowledged that Milken remains involved in devising the company's long-term strategy.
In Pittsburgh, Westinghouse said it is confident it will complete its deal to buy CBS, despite the reports of a potential rival.
Microsoft, which is in the process of rolling out its own online information service, is said to be interested in the brand name of Turner's Cable News Network as well as Turner's video library.
If a deal were to be struck, Turner videos could appear on The Microsoft Network, increasing the value of the on-line service.