Time Warner chairman coming a-calling; what's cooking?

MUMBAI / NEW DELHI: Now this is bound to set the media rumour mills working overtime. Richard D Parsons, chairman and CEO of Time Warner Inc., the biggest media powerhouse in the world, is making a flying visit to India.

Parsons lands in New Delhi on Monday and among those who will be definitely making a "courtesy call" on him is Zee Group chairman Subhash Chandra. This was confirmed to by a senior executive of Zee Telefilms. Chandra is not the only Indian businessman that the Time Warner chairman is scheduled to meet though.

Trying to downplay the visit and pointing out this was a routine visit, an official spokesperson for Time Warner conveyed to, India represents an important part of the Time Warner business in the region and as part of the visit, Mr. Parsons will be meeting with the company's current partners as well as government officials.

The timing of Parsons' visit does raise questions, especially since it comes barely ten days after Zee announced it had secured Reserve Bank of India clearance to raise up to $ 90 million in funds by way of debt.

What could Time Warner Inc chairman Richard Parsons have on his India visit agenda? (Picture courtesy Speculation that Time Warner would be taking a stake in Zee has come up at various times over the last few years. And the immediate possibility that comes to mind is that Chandra has kept the debt fund route open as a back-up in case a stake offload deal does not work out.

The Zee executive, however, categorically denied that any corporate announcement involving Zee and Time Warner was in the offing. "As of now, there is no business deal on the agenda," the Zee executive stated.

Zee Telefilms and Time Warner company Turner International India have a 74:26 distribution joint venture for TV channels, called Zee Tuner Pvt. Ltd.

Parsons, who has just recently been elevated to chairman, became chief executive of Time Warner in May 2002. Parsons served as president of Time Warner from February 1995 until his appointment as co-COO when Time Warner and AOL merged.

Prior to February 1995, Parsons served as chairman and CEO of The Dime Savings Bank of New York, FSB from January 1991. He is currently also a director of Citigroup Inc. and Estee Lauder companies, Inc. and a member of the board of representatives of TWE.

Incidentally, Gunter Thielen, chairman and CEO of the Euro 18.3 billion Bertelsmann Media Worldwide, is also slated to be in India on Monday, but he too, like Parsons, is not scheduled to interact with the media.

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