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Faces behind biggest deals.

NEW YORK When deals are done, bankers are never far away. Here's a look at some of the top players in media and entertainment:

* Morgan Stanley Dean Witter -- Jeff Sine, head of the firm's 50-person global media group

Ranked 1999 Bank of the Year by Investment Dealers' Digest, Morgan Stanley was the sole banker for Viacom in the CBS deal, and took the lead for Time Warner in the company's deals with America Online and EMI. Sine and partner Paul Taubman led the Time Warner efforts for Morgan Stanley, which also advised the conglom on its landmark merger with Turner Broadcasting as well as a potential restructuring of Time Warner Entertainment.

In addition, Morgan Stanley is also lead underwriter for Viacom's upcoming initial public offering of online unit MTVi. The company worked with Times Mirror Co. in its takeover by Tribune Co. and was a key member of the large banking group assembled by AMFM in the radio company's sale to Clear Channel.

Morgan Stanley backed Seagram in the acquisition of Polygram -- double-dipping on that deal by selling a piece of the Polygram film library to U.K. group Carlton.

Sine says business is sizzling as new companies pop up nonstop and old-liners move into new areas. In the past, for instance, "G.E. was not a company that did a whole lot," but now the industrial giant has a whole set of online ventures, largely through NBC.

* Salomon Smith Barney -- Michael Christenson, managing director and head of the firm's global technology group; Fehmi Zeko, head of the global media and leisure group

Thanks to the firm's relationship with America Online, it was right there as the Internet giant sat across the table from Time Warner. The firm opened its annual media and telecommunications conference the day the AOL/Time Warner merger was announced.

"Some 2,000 people woke up to learn about the deal and we got to see all the CEOs really having to think on their feet," says Christenson.

Salomon Smith Barney bankers, led by Tod Benson, worked with Clear Channel on the purchase of AMFM and then of SFX Entertainment.

It also advised Comcast when the Philadelphia cabler tried to buy MediaOne last year only to be outbid by AT&T. Salomon brokered the subsequent truce with AT&T, which landed Comcast with $10 billion worth of new cable assets. In a sign of how big media deals had become by then, the consolation prize represented Salomon's second-biggest media deal at the time.

In addition, the firm represented Paxson Communications when the company sold a stake to NBC.

Christenson says volatile markets and shaky Internet shares will spur deals, but not right away. In the past, Internet "companies wanting to build their businesses could assume they had almost unlimited capital available. That has clearly changed. But history tells you there's a period of time when they aren't wining to face reality." He gives them about three to six months in denial.

Christenson thinks the online rout has leveled the playing field between Internet and traditional media groups, with the acquiring like to come from either side now.

* Goldman Sachs -- Alan Axelrod, head of the entertainment sector of the communications, media and entertainment group

Bob Harrison in New York and Scott Mead in London are global co-heads of the extensive group of more than 150 bankers.

The firm is involved with America Online in the Time Warner deal and also represents EMI in that company's agreement with Warner Music. Goldman advised Times Mirror Co. on its sale to Tribune Co. and was behind AT&T in the company's acquisitions of both Tele-Communications and MediaOne, deals that plugged the long-distance giant into the cable biz.

Goldman worked for Philips when the Dutch group sold Polygram to Seagram, but has been Seagram's bank of choice for most financing and mergers and acquisitions work, including a deal with Barry Diller's USA Networks. The firm also helped Masushita sell MCA to Seagram.

Goldman sold Marcus Cable to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's Charter Communications and has worked on a number of Charter's other cable transactions; it also underwrote the company's IPO.

Goldman, along with Bear Stearns, helped Walt Disney restructure its investment in Infoseek as the Mouse upped its stake in the Internet company and created the Go.com tracking stock.

Axelrod sees the Internet's importance in terms of distribution increasingly attracting the interest of traditional media companies. But even the most strategic deals and vertically integrated groups won't be able to shut others out.

"AOL/Time Warner is a great deal, but it can't block out compelling content"-- for it's own good, he says.

* Merrill Lynch -- Gregg Seibert, head of the global media group

The firm advised Tribune Co. in its buy of Times Mirror Co., led by bankers Michael Costa and David Weil. It worked with Goldman Sachs on AT&T's purchase of MediaOne and advised Cox on its TCA Cable buy.

The West Coast office is overseen by Paul Muer. The entertainment biz presents evermore opportunities for investment banking as broadband and streaming video roll out, says. Like other banks, Merrill looks at the business of film financing every once in a while but hasn't jumped in.

The company was lead underwriter of the two biggest media IPOs ever, for News Corp.'s Fox Entertainment Group and CBS' Infinity Broadcasting. The firm also actively buys into promising new economy companies, like a $15 million investment in e-partners 2, a venture of News Corp. and SoftBank.

The fast pace of technology, rapid-fire deals and the volatility of stock markets lately means you have to be more responsive to your clients than ever, Seibert says.

* Wasserstein Perella

A smaller firm than the others, but one whose name was attached to two of the biggest deals of the year thanks to a long-standing relationship with Time Warner. Bruce Wasserstein, Michael Biondi and Douglas Taylor are assisting Time Warner with America Online and EMI.

The firm advised Kirk Kerkorian's MGM Grand on the recent purchase of the Mirage hotel. It worked with Hearst on the acquisition of the San Francisco Chronicle and with Hollywood.com, which sold a 35% stake to CBS.

Wasserstein Perella is the largest shareholder of Imax and owns American Lawyer and the Daily Deal.
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Title Annotation:investment banks involved in entertainment industry mergers
Comment:Faces behind biggest deals.(investment banks involved in entertainment industry mergers)
Author:GOLDSMITH, JILL
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 15, 2000
Words:1045
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