Media magnate Rupert Murdoch is believed to be at a delicate stage in negotiations with US cable mogul John Malone over a buyback of the latter's voting stake in News Corporation.

Malone's Liberty Media has an 18% share in NewsCorp, the acquisition of which prompted the latter's board to set up a controversial 'poison pill' defense [WAMN: 09-Nov-04].

The Murdoch clan is leery about Malone's assurances that his investment is long-term and not predatory, prompting family fears for the security of its 30%-plus controlling stake in NewsCorp.

The buyback of Liberty's shares could be eased by US media watchdog, the Federal Communications Commission, which is expected to approve NewsCorp's request to take control of thirty-five US television stations, currently licensed personally to Murdoch before the company's 2005 reincorporation in the USA.

Some of those stations could be exchanged for part of Liberty's News Corp stake, thus allowing the deal to be tax-free - a stratagem that clearly appeals to the patriotic tycoons.

Malone's shares in the Murdoch empire are thought to be worth around $10 billion (€7.72bn; £5.42bn).

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