Billionaires battle over ITV

Stephen Beard Nov 21, 2006


SCOTT JAGOW: Backing the O.J. project was obviously a mistake for Murdoch, but he hasn’t made many bad business decisions. In fact, right now in Britain, he’s making news for a daring financial maneuver. Stephen Beard has more from London.

STEPHEN BEARD: Murdoch has infuriated his fellow billionaire, the airline boss Sir Richard Branson, by pulling off a lightning coup.

Branson and his cable TV partners were planning to buy Britain’s largest commercial broadcaster ITV, but then Murdoch stepped in.

His British satellite TV firm snapped up around 18 percent of ITV. That could spoil Branson’s plans. He wants 100 percent. With that he could rival Murdoch’s growing TV empire in Britain.

Branson is fuming, but analyst David Buik is full of praise for Murdoch’s move.

DAVID BUIK: I think he’s just been two moves ahead of the game. I think this is a sensible business decision on his part. And you can call it “spoiling tactics” but why not? It’s a rough old jungle out there. Dog eat dog.

Branson, however, is planning to complain to Britain’s competition authority.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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