It’s a hotly rumored corporate dalliance—that of CEOs Jeff Bewkes of Time Warner and Jeff Immelt of GE, parent of NBC Universal. No doubt their forefathers, the Warner brothers and Thomas Edison, are rolling in their graves. Back in their day, red-blooded businessmen were fighters, not lovers. Edison, who founded GE and controlled essential motion-picture patents, practically forced the Warners to pull the plug on their earliest foray into the movie business when the brothers couldn’t afford to pay Edison’s high fees on equipment to run their fledgling film-rental company.
But times change. If Edison and the Warners couldn’t afford friendly business dealings, Immelt and Bewkes may find it prohibitively costly to their careers to avoid cozying up. The two Jeffs have watched their stocks turn into, well, mutts (corny pun intended). And so they have begun preliminary efforts to explore a commingling of their entertainment assets—combining GE’s NBC Universal with Time Warner—in hopes of eventually igniting investor enthusiasm and pumping up their stock prices, according to media-industry executives familiar with the developments but not authorized to comment.
Time Warner and GE executives have been considering such nuptials since the late 1990s. The then CEOs Gerald Levin of Time Warner and Jack Welch of GE came the closest before getting cold feet. Their immediate successors, Richard Parsons and Immelt, considered reviving a deal, according to the NEWSWEEK sources. Now, those executives say, the idea is among the most intriguing in a range of topics that came up in a conversation between Immelt and Bewkes. A GE spokesman denies the subject arose; Time Warner declined to comment on this story.