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December 3, 2009 9:12 AM

Comcast to Acquire NBC Universal; Davis Polk, Weil, Gibson Dunn on $30 Billion Deal

Posted by Ed Shanahan

Comcast, the largest cable TV operator in the U.S., reached an agreement Thursday with General Electric Company to acquire NBC Universal. The deal comes after nearly a year of negotiations. News reports late Wednesday anticipated an announcement on Thursday.

The joint venture agreement gives Comcast a controlling interest (51 percent) in NBC; GE will own 49 percent, according to a statement released by Comcast.The deal will combine all of NBC's businesses--including cable channels Bravo and MSNBC, and the Universal movie studio--with Comcast's cable networks, regional sports networks, and various digital properties. The deal values NBC's properties at $30 billion.

Comcast will contribute its stable of cable channels, valued at about $7.25 billion, to the venture and will pay GE about $6.5 billion in cash, according to the deal announcement.

Davis Polk & Wardwell is representing Comcast on the deal, according to the Comcast announcement. GE and NBC have turned to a team of lawyers from Weil, Gotshal & Manges, according to the firm.

The network will remain NBC Universal. The new business will be headquartered in New York (Comcast is based in Philadelphia) and led by current NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker.

The joint venture means French media company Vivendi S.A. will sell its 20 percent stake in NBC Universal to GE. The stake, acquired in 2004, is now valued at $ 5.8 billion; Vivendi will not own any shares in the newly merged company.

Vivendi was advised on the deal by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, according to a Vivendi press release.

Given the properties involved, and Comcast's already extensive reach, the venture is expected to draw intense regulatory scrutiny. The New York Times reports the deal could take up to 18 months to gain the required regulatory approvals; other reports have described a time frame of six months to a year.

Check back here later this morning for a full report on the legal advisers handling the deal and more analysis of the merger.

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