Breaking Down John Malone’s Investments, Company by Company

By Crayton HarrisonCrayton Harrison, Cedric SamCedric Sam and Mathieu Benhamou

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

John Malone’s potent mix of cable and media investments has outperformed the market impressively over the years. So far, his holdings beat the S&P 500 by 64 percent in 2017 alone. Investors often want to imitate him. Gabelli & Co. even put together an exchange-traded fund that imitates Malone’s investments for clients. But mimicking his holdings is a challenge that requires investors to keep up with a head-spinning number of financial maneuvers, weird trading vehicles and merger deals.

So we’re putting it all in one place for you—Malone’s various stakes and his voting position in public companies—to provide a clearer picture of his reach and influence across the industry. His investment maneuvering rarely seems to slow down. In the coming months, for example, two of his biggest companies, Liberty Global Plc and Liberty Interactive Corp., are expected to split into four separate entities. One thing is certain: Malone is always up to something big. Here’s a primer on how his holdings stack up.

These are John Malone’s top holdings

Different share classes allow Malone to have quasi control over Liberty Media, Liberty Interactive and Liberty Global.
Shares in the company
Voting shares
Liberty Media Corp.
Divided among three tracking stocks, Liberty Media is home to Malone’s sports and satellite radio investments. It’s been around in some form since 1991 and once traded as a tracking stock when Malone sold TCI to AT&T Inc.
Liberty Braves
The Atlanta Braves and the team’s stadium and related real estate projects are represented by this tracking stock. It’s one of the few ways investors can bet on the value of a major league franchise in the U.S.
 
8.3% Position
Voting 47.6%
Liberty SiriusXM Group
This tracking stock represents Liberty Media’s 69 percent stake in Sirius XM Holdings Inc., the satellite radio provider. Sirius XM, meanwhile, is making a minority investment in Pandora Media Inc., the online radio company.
 
7.9% Position
Voting 47.5%
Formula One Group
The racing circuit, one of Malone’s newest investments, was acquired last year. It has hired longtime media executive Chase Carey as CEO and is exploring ways to increase its popularity in the U.S.
 
3.3% Position
Voting 46.8%
Liberty Interactive
Big changes are in store for this grab-bag collection of Malone investments. In April 2017 the company announced it’s acquiring Alaskan phone provider General Communication Inc. Four months later, Liberty Interactive said it’s buying full control of HSN Inc. and plans to combine it with QVC to create a home-shopping giant. When the Alaska deal is done, the company will split in two.
Liberty Interactive Corp. QVC Group
In addition to QVC and a minority stake in HSN Inc., the tracking stock includes Zulily Inc., the e-commerce outlet.
 
6.1% Position
Voting 38.1%
Liberty Ventures Group
Among other things, these shares track the company’s ownership of web-based meeting tool Evite Inc., a 37 percent holding in florist FTD Cos. and a 23 percent stake in Liberty Broadband Corp. (See more on this below.)
 
5.3% Position
Voting 32.4%
Liberty Global
Malone’s international cable behemoth serves about 20 million pay-TV households and 10 million wireless subscribers across Europe and Latin America. The company is also planning to split in two later in 2017.
Liberty Global Plc
This stock represents the European operations, including pay-TV provider Virgin Media Plc in the U.K. and Germany’s Unitymedia NRW GmbH. The big question is whether the company eventually does a deal with mobile giant Vodafone Group Plc.
 
2.9% Position
Voting 26.8%
Liberty Global Plc LiLAC Group
That stands for Liberty Latin American and Caribbean operations, which includes about 1 million TV customers in Chile and 1.8 million mobile-phone users in Panama, among other markets. Becoming a stand-alone company would put LiLAC in position to conduct mergers and acquisitions in the region.
 
9.5% Position
Voting 22.6%
Other direct holdings
Liberty Broadband Corp.
This isn’t really much of a company—it consists almost entirely of a 21 percent stake in Charter Communications Inc., the second-biggest cable provider in the U.S. In addition to Malone’s direct holdings in Liberty Broadband, his Liberty Interactive owns a 23 percent stake. (See above for more.) Malone has spoken of Charter, which acquired Time Warner Cable in 2016, as a potential vehicle to further consolidate the cable industry in the U.S.
 
3.8% Position
Voting 47.0%
Liberty Expedia Holdings Inc.
Mostly a trading vehicle representing a 16 percent stake in Expedia, the online-travel destination, this company also includes full ownership of Vitalize LLC, a fitness site that used to be called Bodybuilding.com.
 
5.4% Position
Voting 32.8%
CommerceHub Inc.
A provider of services to online retailers, the company spun off in 2016 from Liberty Interactive. It’s a relatively tiny holding for Malone, with revenue of about $100 million a year.
 
5.3% Position
Voting 32.8%
Discovery Communications Inc.*
The cable TV powerhouse, which owns Animal Planet and TLC in addition to its flagship network, agreed in July to buy Scripps Networks Interactive, home of HGTV and the Food Network. It’s part of Malone’s strategy to fuse some of the smaller players in TV into a bigger, more powerful company.
 
4.2% Position
Voting 21.2%
Ascent Capital Group Inc.
Formerly a media production company, it’s now mostly known for owning MONI Smart Security, which sells security systems to homes and businesses. Ascent has been a public company since 2008.
 
4.5% Position
Voting 17.7%
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.
The studio, home of “The Hunger Games” and “Orange Is the New Black,” merged with premium-TV provider Starz—another Malone holding—late in 2016. Malone shares control of Lions Gate with another big-time investor, Mark Rachesky of MHR Fund Management LLC.
 
6.2% Position
Voting 7.9%

Secondary holdings via Greg Maffei

Shares in the company
Voting shares
Liberty TripAdvisor Holdings Inc.
The company, which owns a 22 percent stake in online travel site TripAdvisor Inc., used to be controlled by Malone, but he passed the shares over to his right-hand man Greg Maffei, essentially as a bonus.
 
3.7% Position
Voting 27.3%

With so many holdings in media production and distribution, Malone has a lot of options to combine or rejigger his companies as the industry continues to evolve via streaming and wireless technology. Or he can sell, if the right offer comes along. If there's one thing Malone has shown over the years, it's a willingness to shake things up.