The death of a company's founder often creates uncertainty. When Bob Magness, chairman of cable-television giant Tele-Communications, died of cancer on Nov. 17, he owned 7% of TCI and had rights to vote 26% of its shares. Magness, a onetime Texas rancher and cottonseed salesman, launched his cable company in 1956 by stringing wire for 700 customers in Memphis, Tex.
TCI long has been tightly controlled by Magness and CEO John Malone, who has rights to vote 17.7% of its stock. An additional 7% of the voting stock is held by Kearns-Tribune, publisher of Salt Lake Tribune, which got its shares back in 1958.
What will happen to Magness' stake is unclear. A TCI spokeswoman says there is no trust arrangement for Malone to vote the shares. Kearns-Tribune has an arrangement to buy any shares that become available, but Kearns President Dominic Welch says his company has no plans to purchase Magness' stake. Most of the shares will likely pass to Magness' wife, Sharon. Her plans are of intense interest to Malone and Wall Street alike.