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Friday, March 12, 1999 Published at 17:26 GMT

Business: The Company File

DTI handed Man Utd report

Family stand at Old Trafford, which could be owned by BSkyB

The controversial takeover bid for the world's biggest football club, Manchester United, could be about to move a step closer to a resolution.

The pay television company BSkyB, in which the media giant Rupert Murdoch holds a controlling stake, wants to buy the club for £623m.

The UK's competition watchdog, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC), has handed over its report on the matter to the Trade and Industry Secretary, Stephen Byers.

Details of the contents are not expected to be made known until next week at the earliest.

The government said it would publish the report "as soon practicable".

The BSkyB bid was launched last September and the then UK Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Mandelson referred it to the MMC.

[ image: Stephen Byers will now have to rule on the MMC report]
Stephen Byers will now have to rule on the MMC report
BSkyB already owns the exclusive rights in the UK to broadcast English Premiership matches live until 2001. Now it also wants to own the biggest club in the world.

It means the Edwards family, which has run the club for several decades, could finally relinquish control.

A vocal group of Manchester United supporters has been opposing the deal but it could all be in vain.

Critics say the takeover raises important questions about who really controls English football.

Mr Murdoch's News Corporation owns a controlling stake in BSkyB, as well as the best-selling tabloid, The Sun, The Times and Sunday Times.

The MMC decision will be closely watched as the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has been accused of getting too close to Mr Murdoch's business empire.

Mr Blair and his Labour Party spent considerable amounts of time and effort securing the support of Mr Murdoch's papers ahead of the last General Election when the News Corporation stable switched its backing from the Conservatives to Mr Blair.

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