Sunday, 6 September 1998

Fears over Murdoch Man Utd deal

Football fans and politicians have expressed concern over plans by Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB group to buy Manchester United.
BSkyB confirmed negotiations were taking place after the story was reported in the press on Sunday.
It is thought the satellite TV group has offered £575m for the Premier League club, which attracts massive support worldwide.

 But fans fear the club will be less independent if owned by BSkyB, which has rights to screen Premiership games.
Chairman of the Manchester United Independent Supporters Association, Andy Walsh, said: "The success of Manchester United has been built up by the likes of Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson.

"One man does not have the right to sell that success on in such a fashion. Rupert Murdoch will rape and pillage Manchester United." The UK Sports Minister, Tony Banks, said the Office of Fair Trading could order an inquiry.

"This can't be treated as if it were just a normal takeover of one publicly quoted company by another."
BSkyB's statement said: "The board of British Sky Broadcasting Group plc has noted the recent press speculation and confirms that it is in discussions which may or may not lead to an offer being made for Manchester United plc."
The club is expected to make an announcement to the London Stock Exchange on Monday morning.

The Sunday Telegraph says Mr Murdoch has agreed a deal with United's Chief Executive, Martin Edwards, who will sell his 14% stake in the club for more than £80m.
The deal has been put together by the US investment bank Goldman Sachs and has not been revealed to the players or manager Alex Ferguson.
The deal would give Mr Murdoch, who has a 40% stake in BSkyB, even more influence over football.

A senior Labour backbencher told the newspaper: "If this deal goes through Murdoch will have a stranglehold on sport in this country."
Sunday Telegraph sports editor Colin Gibson said: "A lot of the other football clubs in the Premiership will be very very concerned at this news."

Sunday Telegraph sports editor, Colin Gibson: A deal that will "rule out the competition"
Manchester United is the world's most profitable football club. Last year it made profits of £27.6m, and its share price, currently 159p, is likely to leap on the news.
An offer of £575m would give shareholders more than 220p per share.
Last month BSkyB revealed its own pre-tax profits for the year to June - up 22% to £314m.

Manchester United recently announced the launch of its own television channel in a joint venture with BSkyB.
It is thought this could be a first step to the club setting up its own pay-per-view service.
It has also led talks on forming a lucrative European Super League.
The deal mirrors Mr Murdoch's strategy in the US, where he owns the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team as well as the television rights to the sport through his Fox network.
He also has stakes in the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks basketball teams.

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