Media moguls have had a rough year. Sumner Redstone is jettisoning assets to maintain control of Viacom and CBS. Despite a breakup, Barry Diller's empire of Internet assets has plunged in value. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has lost about $30 billion of market cap. Yet amid the rubble, one mogul, John Malone, appears to have salvaged some semblance of value for his shareholders at the expense of another mogul's shareholders.
That's not to say that owning shares in Mr. Malone's Liberty Media has been a home run. Over the year the stock has fallen 38 percent, adjusted for the issuance of tracking shares. While that's a bit worse than some media peers like Walt Disney or Time Warner Cable, it's about in line with the broader market. On the face of it, that seems to be the result of one big deal Mr. Malone pulled off at the start of the year.
Liberty swapped a large chunk of the News Corporation, voting and nonvoting shares, for a package of assets that included a stake in the satellite broadcaster DirecTV, a pile of cash and some regional sports cable networks. Though the exchange between Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Malone had been agreed-to some time ago, it did not close until February. At that time, the deal looked advantageous for Liberty's shareholders.