NewsCorp, Liberty Media Split to Separately Stalk Hughes

27 February 2003

Two US media moguls, News Corporation’s Rupert Murdoch and John Malone of Liberty Media have abandoned their plans to jointly bid for General Motors’ unit Hughes Electronics.

Instead they will separately pursue their quarry, the world's largest provider of digital television entertainment, broadband services, satellite-based private business networks, and global video and data broadcasting.

But … all save the last-named cativity are just icing on the cake. The two moguls’ respective telescopic sights are trained on DirecTV – America’s largest satellite TV operator - and Murdoch’s principal object of desire as the missing piece in the jigsaw of his global satellite ambitions.

Malone, for many years Murdoch’s main strategic partner and largest single shareholder in NewsCorp, also sees DirecTV as a key growth asset. Due diligence teams from both magnates have recently visited Hughes’ headquarters in El Segundo, California.

According to insiders, the parting of the ways over Hughes does not imply a falling-out between the two tycoons. Rather, it seems to be a tax-related matter that persuaded NewsCorp to go it alone. It is also thought that possible regulatory issues over joint ownership of DirecTV hastened the bifurcation.

Meantime, all has been strangely quiet of late over NewsCorp’s romancing of DirecTV’s main rival, EchoStar Communications [WAMN: 21-Jan-03].

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff