Malone Reassures Murdoch Over Share Purchase

26 January 2004

US cable entrepreneur John Malone has reportedly reassured Rupert Murdoch that he has no plans to challenge for control of News Corporation.

Malone, via his Liberty Media vehicle, last week grabbed a 9% voting share in NewsCorp -- a voting stake second only to the Murdoch family's 30%. The unexpected manoeuvre, which lifted Liberty's overall equity stake to 17%, prompted speculation that Malone's intentions were hostile.

However, the Liberty boss is said to have phoned Murdoch late last week to make it clear he supports NewsCorp's strategy under the current regime. The two moguls have frequently done business together in the past -- though they have occasionally crossed swords, as when Liberty considered bidding against NewsCorp for satellite operator DirecTV.

Malone's share purchase took analysts by surprise, as it does not significantly increase his standing in NewsCorp. One theory is that he grabbed a voting stake because Murdoch tends to issue non-voting shares as part of acquisitions. If further deals are on the cards, such issues could hold back the price of this stock.

The move could also be significant if Malone sells Liberty to NewsCorp, as this would see the latter buying back its own voting stock.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff