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Paper: Murdoch Bids for Soccer Team

September 6, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ Media magnate Rupert Murdoch was reported Sunday to have made a 575 million pound ($950 million) bid to buy soccer giant Manchester United.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, Murdoch has already negotiated a deal with United chairman Martin Edwards. Edwards, the paper says, is selling his 14 percent stake in the club for 80 million pounds ($132 million).

Although the reported move was described as pure speculation by officials of Murdoch’s satellite TV company BSkyB Sunday and there was no comment from the club, the prospect of his buying one of the world’s most famous and financially successful clubs would make a huge impact on soccer business in Britain.

Through Sky TV, Murdoch has made sweeping changes to coverage of soccer in Britain with very few live games being shown on regular terrestrial stations on the BBC and ITV. Sky also has exclusive rights to cover England’s games such as Saturday’s European Championship qualifying round loss to Sweden.

Tim Allen, BSkyB’s director of corporate communications, told Sky News: ``The reports are speculation, but it’s understood there have been negotiations.″

The sale of England’s wealthiest club, which was floated on the stock market in 1991, to BSkyB could give the broadcasting company a stranglehold on the television and marketing rights to Premier League football.

Manchester United’s own television network called `MU TV’ is preparing to launch later this week and, if the a sale to Murdoch went through, it is likely that the only way of seeing the team play would be through pay-per-view TV.

Although United has a 55,000-seater stadium at Old Trafford, almost all the seats go to season ticket holders and the waiting list for the few that become available is several years long.

Murdoch’s Fox Television network spent some dlrs 360 million earlier this year on buying baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers.

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