17. Liberty/Qurate Retail, Inc.

Revenues 2020: € 20.610 billion



John Malone, the cable billionaire from Denver, also known as the ‘Darth Vader of the cable business’, has been playing in the upper ranks of the US-American and international cable and media industry with his Liberty Media Corp. for 30 years. The strength of Liberty Media rests not only with its size and financial pulling power but also on the diversity of its shareholdings. The company divisions of the Liberty Media Corp. are program production and distribution, Internet services and technology as well as technical infrastructures such as cable networks. Home shopping and E-Commerce play an increasingly important role. 

The most important shareholdings of the Liberty Media Corp. are bundled into the three company divisions Liberty Capital, Liberty Starz and Liberty Interactive. Liberty Interactive administers the shareholdings that are primarily concerned with the selling of goods and services via the Internet and television, while Liberty Entertainment is dedicated primarily to the field of traditional program providers and media markets. Liberty Capital on the other hand manages involvements that are not strictly assigned to any of the other two business fields.

General Information


Liberty Boulevard, Englewood, CO 80112, USA
Phone: 001-720-875-5400
Fax: 001-720-875-5401
Internet: www.libertymedia.com

Branches: Satellite-TV, cable channels, telecommunications, travel and hotel- services
Legal form: Public Company 
Financial year: 1/1 - 12/31 
Founding year: 1991 (spun off as a holding from Tele-Communications, Inc. (TCI))Sub-companies: Liberty Global; Discovery Holding Company (DHC).

Table I: Economic Performance Liberty Media 2008-2010
Revenues (in $ Mio.)10,98210,15810,087
Profit (loss) (in $ Mio.)1,3031,050(758)
Table II: Economic Performance Liberty Interactive 2011-2015
Revenues (in $ Mio.)10.,6479,98910,44910,30710,0189,616
Operating income (loss) (in $ Mio.)9681,1161,1881,1311,124965
Table III: Economic Performance Liberty Media 2011-2015
Revenues (in $ Mio.)5,2764,7954,4504,0021,9993,024
Operating income (loss) (in $ Mio.)1,734954841(80)326808

Executives and Directors


Management Liberty Media/Liberty Interactive:

  • John C. Malone, Chairman
  • Gregory B. Maffiei, President & CEO
  • Richard N. Baer, Senior Vice President and General Counsel
  • Mark D. Carleton, CFO
  • Albert E. Rosenthaler, Senior Vice President


Board of Directors Liberty Interactive:

  • Evan D. Malone, 1525 South Street LLC
  • David E. Rapley, Rapley Consulting
  • Larry E. Romrell, Fisher Capital Partners, Ltd.
  • Gregory B. Maffei, Liberty
  • Andrea L. Wong, Lifetime Entertainment
  • M. Ian G. Gilchrist, Salomon Brothers
  • John C. Malone, Liberty
  • Richard N. Barton, Zillow Group
  • Michael A. George, QVC
  • M. Lavoy Robison
  • Mark Vadon, zulily inc.


Board of Directors Liberty Media:

  • Evan D. Malone, 1525 South Street LLC
  • David E. Rapley, Rapley Consulting
  • Larry E. Romrell, Fisher Capital Partners, Ltd.
  • Gregory B. Maffei, Liberty
  • Andrea L. Wong, Lifetime Entertainment
  • M. Ian G. Gilchrist, Salomon Brothers
  • John C. Malone, Liberty
  • Richard N. Barton, Zillow Group
  • Michael A. George, QVC



Initially, Liberty Media had been an investment holding company for TV-program providers that belonged to one of the leading US-American cable providers, Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI). The TCI cable network was sold to AT&T Broadband in 1999 and to Comcast in 2001. When TCI started to founder in 1973, the 32 year old John C. Malone was made the new CEO. Malone restructured the company and turned it into the market leader in the US-American cable business during the 1980s and 1990s. For this endeavour, Malone took full advantage of his position in control over the technical distribution channels in order to secure involvements in program providers such as Discovery Channel or Tri-Star Pictures, which intended to distribute their programs through the TCI cable infrastructure. In 1987, TCI came to the rescue of the highly indebted Turner Broadcasting System, the result of which was a 12% involvement in the station group. A quiet diversified portfolio of US-American and international market involvements was created in this fashion.

In August 2001, AT&T parted with Liberty Media. The telecommunication giant under pressure adhered to a far-reaching restructuring plan on the one hand but conflicts of interests between Malone and AT&T became increasingly evident on the other. John Malone swiftly came to the conclusion that infrastructures could only be as good as the content they provide. As such, Liberty Media extended its network of involvements with content providers. Malone sold his shares of the FOX/Liberty network that had formerly been co-founded with Rupert Murdoch for an 8% involvement in News Corp.

He increased his share unexpectedly to 18% when the USA found themselves in the frenzy of the presidential election and swapped his non-eligible shares for shares that made him eligible to vote. Through this coup, Liberty Media became the second largest owner – and decision maker – within the Murdoch Empire. There were rumours that Malone would succeed Rupert Murdoch, the director and chief administrator of the company, who was already 74 years old at that time. Over the course of this development, the two friendly media tycoons appeared to have become bitter archrivals. As of today, Malone and Murdoch agreed on re-swapping the shares and Malone does not own any more shares of News Corp anymore. 

In December 2010, John Malone and IAC Chef Barry Diller put an end to their feud: Malone’s company, Liberty Media, sold its majority of Diller’s Internet conglomerate IAC for 220 million Dollars plus several material assets such as the involvement in Evite.com and gifts.com. Diller withdrew from the position of chief administrator at IAC and now holds 34 % of shares.

The last few years witnessed considerable shifts within the company: It turned out that the US-American cash cows of Liberty Media were pay-TV and home shopping television. Starz Entertainment Group LLC and QVC are examples of Malone’s medium and long-term planning. High investments, cost-intensive acquisitions as well as the expansion of shareholdings with voting eligibility are not shied away from due to the expected turnover. So far, the strategy has not worked out.



John Malone has the reputation of a dreaded negotiation partner, who is not in it for the power but only for the money. John Malone has a simple, yet rhetorically effective way of summing up the company goals and core competencies of Liberty Media in four points:

1. Invest in growing markets
2. Tap into new business fields and potential through perfectly timed take-overs
3. Efficiently manage the existing capital
4. Hive off companies to the shareholders of the company itself.

The high flexibility of Liberty Media’s company structure in particular is the key to the company’s success: While others take a breather after completed fusions, spin-offs or acquisitions of shares, the Liberty Media House continues to fuse, sell or hive off.

Business Fields


The main activities of Liberty Media can be summarised in three business fields: Shopping channels and selling activities over the Internet, cable networks and program content.

Home shopping-TV / Internet:
The core division of Liberty Media is Home shopping-TV. The QVC channel is responsible for 90 % of Liberty Media Interactive’s profits. Due to the double-digit growth in revenue, Liberty Media was able to erase the 1,1 billion US-Dollar debt caused by the QVC takeover in 1995 as early as 2002. QVC, which is a hundred-percent subsidiary of Liberty Media by now (In 2003 Liberty bought the remaining 56% for 7,9 billion USD from Comcast) achieved a record turnover of 7,1 billion USD in 2006, which corresponds to a 9,2% growth in revenues when compared to the previous year. Although the turnover in the USA and Great Britain had a slightly regressive tendency, the revenue in Germany and Japan could be improved by 10 and 25 % respectively. However, it is expected that the economy crisis that has only had an impact on the revenues in the USA and Great Britain so far, will at least slow down the growth in Germany and Japan.

QVC is one of the largest multimedia mail-order companies in the world. Its channels are received by more than 160 million households worldwide. The company’s Website is classified as one of the best Internet sites for mail order by experts in the business. The company is present in Great Britain, Germany and Japan and already sent almost a billion packages to its customers in the 20 years of its existence.

Home shopping plays a pivotal role and it is expected to replace the threatening losses of the regular advertising market in the long run, by means of its direct way of addressing customers, the in-house distribution as well as cross-promotion over the Internet. The enormous profits that have forced the mockers of the ‘primitive TV’ to ponder in silence, not only render QVC one of the largest and most profitable media brands worldwide, but also facilitate debt reduction, take over activities and buyback of shares for the whole Liberty Media Corp.

Program content/program distribution:
The Starz Entertainment Group LLC (SEG) is one of the leading providers of premium programs that are distributed in the USA over cable and satellite platforms. The ‘flagship brands’ Starz and Encore alone sport 42,8 million customers (15,5 million Starz; 27,3 million Encore). Every month, SEG transmits more than 1000 films on a grand total of 16 thematically specialised PAY-TV channels. An Ever-increasing number of customers resulted in a turnover of 1 billion US-Dollar in 2006, a four percent growth in revenue when compared to 2004. The collaborations with strong content-partners such as Disney are particularly helpful to company strategist John Malone. In 2003, Starz Entertainment became the exclusive Pay-Tv provider for Walt Disney Pictures. In 2007, Liberty Media, the exclusive license holder of Disney programs in pay-tv, sued the home of the mouse, because Disney offered content on other digital platforms such as iTunes. The trial was about more than just the possible extension of the licensing contract. It was about the early conquest of possibly lucrative Internet entertainment claims. Liberty Media is eager to further expand the revenues generated from the ‘classic’ Pay-TV subscription through video-on-demand services such as Starz HDTV and StarzOnDemand. Starz attempted to compete with the successful Apple Music platform and lately the iTunes Filmstore with its Vongo video service. However, Vongo only worked on Windows devices. Vongo was discontinued and replaced with the Starz Play on-demand service. Starz offers the download of films and series for a monthly flat rate.  

John Malone’s involvement in the successful Docu-brand Discovery is bundled in the Discovery Holding Company (DHC). In March 2005, the Discovery Holding was separated from its parent company Liberty Media through a spin-off and became an independent listed company. John Malone held 29% of shares eligible to vote, was the Discovery Holding’s chairman and CEO. In 2008, the holding was brought into the Discovery Communications stock company but the shareholder structure remained largely intact. Discovery Holding’s company structure focuses on the strong-selling non-fiction television brand that is Discovery, which is presented in 170 countries and reaches 1,4 billion subscribers. Furthermore, Liberty Media holds shares of several production companies. Apart from 11% of business behemoth Hallmark Entertainment, there are also smaller involvements such as a 67% of documentary and news producer Mac Neil/Lehrer Productions.

International cable networks:
Liberty Media, once emerged from TCI, is still a gigantic cable network operator. However, the cable business happens outside of the USA by now. In 2004, Liberty Media outsourced the foreign business into the Liberty Media International, which went on to merge with major cable player UnitedGlobalCom (UGC) to become Liberty Global. As a result of the fusion, Liberty Global is one of the largest broadband providers outside of the USA. Malone is the chairman of Liberty Global and holds the majority of the shares that are eligible to vote. The company is active in both Western and Eastern Europe with UPC (cable networks). Liberty Global operates cable networks and stations in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands and Switzerland (among others). Furthermore, Liberty Global is present in Latin America.

Games: In 2005, Liberty Media got involved in games developer and publisher FUN and extended his portfolio with one eye firmly set on the fast growing market for computer games and interactive entertainment. FUN delivers game systems and services to companies such as AOL, MSN and VIRGIN.


  • Mark Robichaux: Cable Cowboy: John Malone and the Rise of the Modern Cable Business, 2002.
  • L.J. Davis, The Billionaire Shell Game, New York 1998.