The question of whether General Electric would ever want to dump NBC has been a media parlor game for many years - and always denied, first by GE's then-head Jack Welch and more recently by current CEO Jeff Immelt. So when was Immelt really ready to deal? NYT reporters Andrew Ross Sorkin and Tim Arango trace it to last July, at Allen & Co.'s annual media conclave:
The secret meeting was set for an early July afternoon in a condominium along the ninth hole of a golf course in Sun Valley, Idaho. Jeffrey R. Immelt, General Electric's chief executive, arrived first, taking care to avoid being spotted by his own employee, Jeff Zucker, the chief executive of NBC Universal, who was mingling with other executives nearby.
Ralph J. Roberts, the 89-year-old co-founder of the cable giant Comcast, and its chief operating officer, Steve Burke, arrived 15 minutes later. The gathering, which had been brokered by James B. Lee Jr., a vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase, was set up for one purpose: Mr. Immelt, who had resisted the urge to sell NBC for years, was finally ready to sell. For months, he had been in discussions with Mr. Roberts's son, Brian, Comcast's chief executive. But now, at the investment bank Allen & Company's annual media conference -- known for big deal-making -- he wanted to hear it from the mouth of the company's patriarch.
"Do you want to do this?" Mr. Immelt, dressed informally in a polo shirt, asked Mr. Roberts, who was wearing his trademark bow tie, and Mr. Burke, who was Mr. Immelt's classmate at Harvard Business School.
"Yes," Mr. Burke said. Mr. Roberts, who founded Comcast in Tupelo, Miss., in 1963, said: "I've done a lot of deals in my life. Every deal has its time. This is the right time."