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Why NBC Universal Got In on Snap’s IPO

March 6, 2017, 2:08 PM UTC

In need of a smile when confronting the day’s news, I chose to think about NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke sending messages via Snapchat to his adult children as well as an executive at the newly public Snapchat parent, Snap (SNAP).

I have met Steve Burke, and he is the last person on earth one would expect to “snap.” In fact, an otherwise heads-up and thorough account in The Wall Street Journal Saturday of how Burke won the right for NBCU to invest $500 million in Snap’s IPO was quite disappointing for not having said what kind of snaps Burke sent. Did he put mouse or cat ears on top of his head? Did he pucker for the camera before snapping a photo of himself? We’ll never know. The messages have disappeared forever.

Jokes aside, this very likely was a smart move on both sides. NBC got in on what for now is a great investment. More, NBCU is in a good position to integrate its varied content on Snap’s growing media platform. For Snap’s part, it got the media and entertainment conglomerate, a unit of Comcast (CMCSA), to invest at the IPO price of $17 a share and not at some discounted price justified by the size of its investment.

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A particular Burke quote in The Journal stuck with me: “I think what you do if you are a big media company is you run your existing businesses as well as you possibly can and not divert all your attention to digital, while you need to start figuring out how to plant seeds that will turn into saplings and trees five, 10, 20 years from now.”

These are wise words that speak to a prudent balance between embracing the future without strangling the past. It also helps if your existing businesses throw off enough cash to have a spare $500 million lying around.