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No static at HSN's annual meeting

Home Shopping Network Inc. shareholder Mordecai Levy is known for histesty questions at the company's annual meetings, and chairman Roy M. Speer was prepared for the worst at Thursday's session.

After all, Home Shopping lost money in its last fiscal year. And the company spent millions on a lawsuit against GTE Corp., only to have its insurers fork over a $4.5-million settlement to the telephone company after a jury slapped the television retailer with a record $100-million libel judgment.

"I wish to state some laudatory things about you," said Levy, a Tampa resident, who called himself an "annual feature" of the meetings. "I think that in 1990, you probably will see a great renaissance in HSN and in TV electronic sales."

Replied a startled Speer: "We truly must've have had a good quarter."

For Home Shopping, which has taken its investors on a turbulent stock market ride since a a public offering in 1986, raucous annual meetings have become a tradition. But Levy set the tone Thursday, and it all went fairly smoothly for the executives and about 200 shareholders.

As previously reported, the company did turn a profit in its first quarter ended Nov. 30, after six months of losses. And the stock has climbed from a low of $3 a share after the jury verdict in August to a high last month of $9.12 1/2. On Thursday, Home Shopping closed at $7.50 on the American Stock Exchange.

Moreover, analysts are projecting growth is back on track with sales for Home Shopping in excess of $950-million this year, a rise of nearly 25 percent over the year before. In the previous year, sales were up only 6 percent.

At the meeting, Home Shopping officials were asked about the company's major lawsuit against Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. now that the securities firm is in Chapter 11 proceedings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Executive vice president and general counsel Nando DiFilippo Jr. noted that a federal judge in New York ordered Drexel to set aside $350-million for civil claims last year, and that part of the money would likely be available. Home Shopping has filed one of about 30 suits pending.

DiFilippo also noted that Home Shopping retired more than $70-million of the original $100-million bond issue from Drexel over which Home Shopping is suing for fraud.

Still, all wasn't completely rosy. Speer was asked why, if the company has such bright prospects, he and president Lowell W. "Bud" Paxson together sold $23.3-million worth of their shares last month.

"I think I need some diversification," Speer said. "I'll probably do that every now and then for the next 10 years. But I'll still be here. I wouldn't be concerned about that."