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Wednesday, September 9, 1998 Published at 08:46 GMT 09:46 UK


United accepts £623m BSkyB bid

The famous ground of Old Trafford could soon be within the BSkyB business empire

Manchester United has officially confirmed to the London Stock Exchange that it has accepted a £623.4m bid from Rupert Murdoch's television company, BSkyB.

The move comes despite an outcry from fans and the threat of a high profile government investigation into the deal.

News of the higher offer caused Manchester United's shares to leap upwards again on the London stock market.

They rose more than 10% to 221p in early trading, and have now soared almost 40% since BSkyB first confirmed its interest in the club on Monday.

The BBC's Bernie Rose: "An insurance policy for Murdoch"
The satellite broadcaster's bid is worth 240p a share and is almost £50m more than original estimates.

Manchester United share holders will receive 120p in cash and the rest in BSkyB shares.

Mr Murdoch's offer represents a 51% premium to the club's closing share price of 159p on Friday.

But the bid still has to be approved by shareholders and the Office of Fair Trading.

The BBC's Rory Cellan Jones: Rupert Murdoch played a significant part
The club is the largest in the United Kingdom in terms of support and wealth.

Its popularity has meant that it earns as much from merchandise sales and advertising as from gate receipts.

BSkyB, currently owns the rights to broadcast Premiership games live until 2001.

[ image: Rupert Murdoch: He owns a controlling stake in BSkyB]
Rupert Murdoch: He owns a controlling stake in BSkyB
Officials from Manchester United have been locked in talks at a London business suite over the last few days discussing Rupert Murdoch's offer, amid growing opposition from fans.

Murdoch papers' reports

'Shareholders United Against Murdoch': spokesman Richard Lander on BBC Radio 5 Live
Wednesday's edition of the Rupert Mudoch-owned 'The Times' says the media magnate was himself involved in the talks in London.

The paper says BSkyB was forced to increase its bid after two Manchester United directors reckoned the club was being under-valued.

Rich pickings

[ image: Martin Edwards: Set to make nearly £90m under the deal]
Martin Edwards: Set to make nearly £90m under the deal
Martin Edwards, United's chief executive and largest single shareholder, is set to see his 14% stake in the club increase in value to £87m.

The figure represents about £30m more than if he had sold his shares on the open market on Friday.

Another winner will be non-executive director Maurice Watkins who, according to the club's last company report, owned around 2% of the club.

The stake would be valued by BSkyB under the deal at just over £12.5 million, up from just over £8 million on Friday.

Opposition to sale

Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Peter Mandelson, has said any offer would be examined "very completely and extremely searchingly" by the Office of Fair Trading.

FA chief executive Graham Kelly said United had to explain the deal to its fans, adding: "We have to assess the implications very closely indeed."

Key deal for Rupert Murdoch

The takeover project was driven by Mark Booth, Chief Executive at BSkyB, in which Mr Murdoch's News Corporation owns a 40% stake.

It sprang from a lunch with United chief executive Martin Edwards, who himself stands to make £87m from his 14% stake in the club.

BskyB, Britain's most profitable broadcaster, has invested heavily in sports programming.

It paid £670m for the right to broadcast live football matches in 1996.

But those rights run out in 2001 - and by then some of the big clubs may want to sell their rights individually.

[ image: MU TV is the club's recently launched TV station]
MU TV is the club's recently launched TV station
And Manchester United have recently launched its own television station.

Looming over the deal is the question of pay-per-view television.

By some estimates the bigger clubs like Manchester United could share a bonanza of up to £2bn if fans had to pay a fee to watch each match rather than a fixed fee to BSkyB.

The deal would also secure BSkyB's position if a European super League were to go ahead, combining the best clubs in Europe.

Manchester United would be certain to be included in such an arrangement.

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07 Sep 98†|†The Company File
Man Utd: the jewel in football's crown

09 Sep 98†|†Murdoch meets Man Utd
Murdoch's dash to the goal

09 Sep 98†|†UK
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09 Sep 98†|†UK
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