Billionaire investor Ronald Perelman tried for weeks to buy King World, distributor of such hit TV shows as Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. The move was meant to provide critical programming for his New World Communications, which had produced a string of clunker TV shows, had run up nearly $1 billion in debt, and was gushing red ink.

But then, at Allen & Co.'s annual mid-July media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, lightning struck. News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, possibly spurred by Perelman's overture to King World, reopened talks to buy New World. Previous negotiations had stalled in March. Murdoch, who will pay an estimated $2.48 billion for the 80% of New World he doesn't already own, covets New World's Fox affiliates and the 40% of the country they cover.

Perelman, meanwhile, gets out from under New World and its problems. That leaves him free to pursue a bid for part of the huge Atlantic City gambling market. Seems you can win by losing after all.

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