On the same day that he announced his departure as president of the Christian Coalition, Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) founder and board chair Pat Robertson, along with his 42-year-old son, Tim, struck a megadeal with media baron Rupert Murdoch for the sale of International Family Entertainment (IFE), parent company of the Family Channel.
The 67-year-old Virginia Beach broadcaster will remain active in both organizations in spite of the moves announced on June 11. The cash generated from the sale of IFE is a windfall for CBN, which started the Family Channel and another of Robertson's Virginia Beach offspring, Regent University. Both organizations owned substantial amounts of IFE stock.
ALL IN THE FAMILY: The Robertson family sold IFE to News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch for $1.9 billion. The deal enables Murdoch to take over the Family Channel's cable television audience for his subsidiary, Fox Kids Worldwide. Murdoch intends to transform the Family Channel, which is the ninth-largest cable television network in America, into a network of children's programming that will compete with Time Warner's Cartoon Network and Viacom's Nickelodeon.
CBN agreed to sell its more than 3.8 million shares of stock in IFE to Murdoch for $136.1 million. In addition, CBN remains the beneficiary of a trust formed by Robertson and now valued at $109.3 million, which will be transferred to the organization in 2010.
"This transaction will position CBN on firm financial ground for the future," says Robertson. "At the same time, this transaction will permit the ministry to move forward with our desire to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with billions of people around the globe—an enormously expensive undertaking."
Under the terms of the sale, Fox Kids is required to continue carrying The 700 Club, which Robertson cohosts, at 10 a.m. Eastern time weekdays. The network also has agreed to keep rebroadcasts on at 10 p.m.
Pat and Tim Robertson, along with Tele-Communications Inc. founder John Malone, formed IFE in 1990 to buy out the Family Channel from CBN after the network's profitability threatened the ministry's tax-exempt status. While CBN programming originally had been heavy with Christian shows, The 700 Club wound up as the only overtly Christian show on the Family Channel schedule (CT, Oct. 2, 1995, p. 94).
Currently, evening programs on the Family Channel include The Waltons and Rescue 911. Murdoch's Fox Network, with programs such as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Married … With Children, and Beverly Hills 90210, is not known for its family fare.
Also benefiting from the deal is Regent University, the graduate school Robertson established in 1977 as CBN University. Having agreed to sell its 4.2 million shares in IFE for $147.5 million, Regent's total endowment will rise to $276.5 million, making it one of the 100 most highly endowed universities in the country. "It raises us to a new level and assures the longevity of the school," says provost George Selig. He foresees the school eventually using proceeds from the sale to attract high-profile faculty, to fund educational think tanks, and to expand its international presence.
CHRISTIAN COALITION CHANGES: Robertson has relinquished day-to-day operations of his eight-year-old grassroots political organization, but he has become board chair, a new position. Don Hodel, 62, a secretary of energy and interior in the Reagan administration, succeeded Robertson as president and chief executive officer of the Chesapeake, Virginia-based Christian Coalition on June 16. He is a former board member and executive vice president of Focus on the Family.
Also on June 16, Randy Tate, a 31-year-old, one-term Republican congressional representative from Washington defeated in last fall's election, succeeded Ralph Reed as the Christian Coalition's executive director. Reed is starting his own political consulting firm.
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