If a metallic clanking sound disturbs your reading, it could be the sound of Clan Murdoch hauling up the drawbridge as it prepares to fend off a dawn raid on its News Corporation redoubt by cable entrepreneur John Malone.

Liberty Media, the tycoon's acquisition vehicle, on Monday revealed it has advanced by several months its schedule to double its voting stake in NewsCorp - a move not expected until the spring of 2005.

Although fortified by a so-called 'poison pill' defense against unwelcome stakebuilding by Malone or any other predator [WAMN: 12-Nov-04], Rupert Murdoch and his scions, Lachlan and James, will be wondering what cunning plot the canny cable czar is hatching.

The poison pill would activate if someone amassed a holding above 15% without NewsCorp's approval. In which case the company would be able to issue bonus shares to every stockholder other than the aggressor - effectively diluting the latter's holding.

Liberty Media has previously denied any hostile intentions, claiming "we view ourselves as allies of NewsCorp and the Murdoch family".

But Liberty's latest move brings it to the verge of triggering the poison pill, leading to a frenzy of Wall Street speculation as to Malone's intentions.

One theory gaining ground is that Liberty is maximising its NewsCorp leverage to boost Malone's negotiating muscle in a separate and unrelated transaction with the Murdoch family.

Meantime, the lips of both parties remain firmly zipped in response to press inquiries.

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