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Oracle's Maffei to Head Liberty Media

Just days after Greg Maffei said he was vacating the CFO spot at Oracle amid rumors of in-fighting, Liberty Media announced it was hiring him as president and CEO.

Known as a skilled financial man, Maffei could be a much-needed shot in the arm for media holding company Liberty, which today also announced a loss of $94 million, or 3 cents per share for the third quarter. In the year-ago quarter, Liberty reaped $372 million, or 13 cents per share.

Maffei, whose last day running finances at software giant Oracle is Nov. 15, will take the CEO helm at Liberty during the second quarter of 2006, replacing John C. Malone, who will remain chairman. Maffei will also serve as president, replacing Robert Bennett who is retiring but will remain a director.

"I have known Greg for many years and have found him to be one of the most astute financial thinkers I have met," Malone said in a statement. "Greg is well known and respected in the media and electronic commerce industries and has extensive deal experience in these areas."

Maffei has served as CFO and an Oracle president since July, overseeing finances for the company's legal, human resources and manufacturing and distribution. When Maffei said he was leaving Oracle, rumor had it that Maffei was leaving to helm another, undisclosed company.

Analysts following Oracle believed that Maffei clashed with one of his fellow presidents, either Chuck Phillips or Safra Catz.

Maffei has a colorful history of fiscal and operational leadership.

Before Oracle, Maffei spent five years as chairman and CEO of telecom service provider 360networks. Maffei also served as senior vice president and CFO at Microsoft, where he oversaw the company's $35 billion cash portfolio and orchestrated the IPO split-off of Expedia.

His experience should help Liberty, which owns the successful QVC shopping channel and Starz Encore group of movie networks, and is trying to go from a holding company to a collection of TV channels.

In July, Liberty spun off its newly formed subsidiary, Discovery Holding Company (DHC), which included Liberty's Ascent Media Group, its 50 percent interest in Discovery Communications and $200 million in cash.

After completion of this spin off, Liberty now operates and analyzes its businesses individually, rather than combining them with other businesses into groups. Malone and Co. believe this will make it more attractive to investors. Liberty also owns stakes in bigger media companies like News Corp. and IAC/InterActiveCorp.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Malone has been trying to cut a deal with News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch to unwind his stake, but those negotiations have lagged.

Liberty shares, which have fallen 15 percent this year, fell 2 cents yesterday to $7.95 in New York Stock Exchange trading.