Johnnie L.

Stories by Johnnie L. Roberts

  • Goliath Goes Hollywood

    Long ago, there was the sovereign state of ITT. International Telephone and Telegraph, as the company was formally known, bestrode the globe. It was the very embodiment of the ruthless '60s multinational corporation, a powerful conglomerate that controlled more than 250 companies spanning almost every business and industry. ITT was accused of plotting coups in Chile, and lobbying down-and-dirty in Washington. Hollywood never captured those nefarious exploits for the silver screen. Yet now, in a tamer era, when the company is better known for its holdings in Sheraton Hotels and Hartford Insurance, ITT itself is going Hollywood.Just as ITT once muscled its way through the corridors of power, it is today carving out a new empire in leisure and entertainment. Already this year the giant has spent almost $3 billion on high-profile acquisitions. It bought giant Caesars World Inc., owner of casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Then came Madison Square Garden, home to basketball's Knicks...
  • Changing Channels

    ON THE FINAL DAY OF THE 1994 Winter Olympics, aired live on CBS from Lillehammer, Howard Stringer slipped on ice and broke his leg. For the network's to broadcast exec, it was a painful omen of the lame season to come. Already, Rupert Murdoch's feisty Fox network had snagged the rights to the National Football League games, broadcast by CBS for nearly 40 years. Later in the summer Fox stole away eight regional CBS affiliates. About the same time, the network's top entertainment executive quit. Now CBS has abruptly plummeted in prime-time ratings, after three straight seasons on top. Billionaire Laurence Tisch, who controls CBS, didn't even bother to conceal his desire to sell the company, and kept pressuring Stringer to cut the "fat" from budgets that were already lean. All in all, says Stringer, "I wasn't exactly thrilled with the year." ...
  • Chips Off The Block

    FEW WALL STREETERS dispute that Sumner Redstone snared one of the nation's premier companies when he purchased Blockbuster Entertainment last year. In a mere 10 years, thousands of the bright and vast video stores have sprouted nationwide. The chain's 50 million members rent one out of every five of the estimated 4.6 billion videos rented each year. And despite predictions that Blockbuster would soon become a relic in the Information Superhighway era, investors -and executives at Redstone's Viacom Inc.-say the company will continue to boom. "This is really one of the great marketing successes of the 20th century," says money manager Larry Haverty of State Street Research & Management, a big shareholder in Viacom, the owner of MTV, book publisher Simon & Schuster and Paramount. ...
  • Nbc And Turner: Here They Go Again

    Breaking off seems so hard to do for NBC and Turner Broadcasting. After ambling toward the altar for months, Ted Turner spurned a proposal from NBC's parent. General Electric. in January -- largely because GE wanted to maintain control. Now the two companies have reached out to each other again. Sources say low-level operatives recently tried to determine whether thoro's wiggle room to resume formal talks. A Turner spokesman says the two sides aren't talking, while NBC wouldn't comment. ...
  • Betting The House On Cable

    BY MANY MEASURES, LIFE IS good for Time Warner chief Gerald M. Levin. Last week the company and its partner, Toshiba, appeared to win their battle for a new compact-videodisc standard that could displace the home video. And last Friday, Levin plopped down $2.2 billion in stock and debt for another collection of cable-TV systems. Also, he has managed to placate some of his bigest shareholders including, for now, the largest and most threatening, Seagram and its CEO, Edgar Bronfman Jr. ...
  • Are They Jackin' The Box?

    AFTER DIALING A 900 NUMBER AND punching in a three-digit code on the phone keypad, a teenager setback on his bed to gawk at the video he has just requested with a $3 call. In minutes, thong-bikini-clad women fill the TV screen. Close-ups of jiggling buttocks flash by as the curvy women thrust their hips to fast music. Amid all the flesh, a smirking Luther Campbell--best known for his R-rated rap group 2 Live Crewsings his latest hit, "It's Your Birthday." ...