Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest people and the nation’s most celebrated investors, is putting cash behind Starz as his holding Berkshire Hathaway boosts its media profile.
The Oracle of Omaha has mostly shied away from showbiz since the days of the old Capital Cities/ABC before Walt Disney bought it in 1996. But he recently acquired 1.7 million shares of John Malone’s Liberty Media, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this week, and also boosted Berkshire’s stake in DirecTV to 20.3 million shares from about 4.2 million.
Wall Streeters think the move may reflect at least in part the influence of several new investment managers Buffett’s brought on as the 81-year-old thinks about succession.
Fund managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler have expanded Berkshire’s portfolio in technology and, now, media. The nearly $1 billion position in DirecTV makes Berkshire one of the company’s top 10 single shareholders.
The SEC filing disclosed Berkshire’s U.S. equity holdings as of Dec. 31.
Last fall Liberty Media announced plans to combine tracking stocks of its Liberty Starz and Liberty Capital units and increase share buybacks, as have all media companies, to attract investors. It worked. The stock rose solidly over the fourth quarter. It jumped 2% Wednesday on news of Buffett’s endorsement.
Englewood, Colo.-based Liberty Media’s primary investments are Starz, the Atlanta Braves baseball team and TruePosition, along with interests in Sirius XM and Barnes&Noble and minority stakes in Time Warner and Viacom.