The often volatile relationship between children's TV boss Haim Saban and the ubiquitous Rupert Murdoch appears to be on the verge of implosion.

Saban, chairman of kids’ programming giant Saban Entertainment (whose lucrative achievements include The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers) controls 49.5% of Los Angeles-based Fox Family Worldwide, the parent of cable operation Fox Family Channel. An equal slice is held by Murdoch’s News Corp.

The savvy Saban, however, enjoys an option to force News Corp to acquire his stake for a minimum of $2 billion – an option which, according to the grapevine, he now intends to exercise. Although his reasons are not publicly known, his pique over Murdoch been publicly aired - most recently at a cable media convention two weeks ago.

If the reports are correct and Saban’s option is put into play, insiders predict vigorous haggling between the two media mammoths, neither of whom is accustomed to being bested. Some say that the spat could affect the future of DirecTV, currently up for auction by its ultimate parent General Motors, and which Murdoch has made no secret of his eagerness to acquire [WAMN: 4-Dec-00].

News Corp has been seeking partners and dollars to help fund its would-be purchase, likely to fetch $40 billion in cash and stock. But if News Corp is forced to acquire Saban’s stake and assume the concomitant debt, this could effectively sink Murdoch’s DirecTV ambitions.

News source: Wall Street Journal