New York-based media house Viacom and BET Holdings in Washington, D.C., closed a US$3 billion deal on November 3rd that sees Viacom buying BET for $2.3 billion in stock and assuming $570 million of BET debt. Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television and majority shareholder of BET Holdings, will remain as chairman and CEO. Debra Lee, president and COO of the African American cable channel, has agreed to stay on in that role.
Viacom’s purchase includes the BET cable network, which will remain headquartered in Washington, D.C., as well as: BET on Jazz, a jazz music cable channel; BET International, a hybrid of BET and BET on Jazz; BET Books, publisher of African American-themed romance novels; and BET’s interest in BET.com, an African American web portal. Viacom, which also owns MTV, CBS, Nickelodeon and VH1, has promised to throw its weight behind BET, but not to interfere with its programming. The transaction is expected to be completed early next year.