Liberty’s Malone Will Be Out As DirecTV Chairman; Maffei Leaving Board, Too

Over the past few years satellite distributor DirecTV (NYSE: DTV) serially has been under the control of two of the most powerful men in media. Now neither of them has it — and it’s the direct result of the transfer of controlling power from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (NYSE: NWS). to John Malone and Liberty Media (NSDQ: LINTA). Liberty acquired the interest from News Corp. in 2008 as part of an $11 billion deal ending a long-running cat-and-cat game over the former’s stake in the latter. The FCC approved the DirecTV transfer on the condition that a conflict between DirecTV and Liberty Global holdings in Puerto Rico be resolved within the year; that conflict included Malone’s being chairman of DirecTV and Liberty Global, as well as his ownership interests in the companies.

To satisfy that, last year DirecTV put its Puerto Rico holdings in a trust managed by an independent trustee. But, DirecTV said after the market closed Tuesday, the FCC recently told the company that wasn’t enough. The result: Dr. Malone is leaving the DirecTV board and the stock held by a trust for him and his family — the entire high-value Class B — is being converted into Class A, reducing his voting interest to about 3 percent from 24.3 percent. Liberty CEO Greg Maffei also is expected to leave the DirecTV board, as will Paul Gould, who sits on the Liberty Global board. None of this is happening today; It’s still subject to FCC approval; the resignations will take place when the transaction closes. A DirecTV spokesman told me: “We