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Last Updated: Friday, 16 September 2005, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Takeover of Thai paper dropped
By Sebastian Usher
BBC World Media correspondent

Man reading Matichon newspaper, Thursday, 15 September, 2005
There was an outcry over the takeover bid
An entertainment industry mogul in Thailand has abandoned his hostile takeover bid for the country's most respected newspaper, Matichon.

Paiboon Damrongchaitham, head of the GMM Grammy group, said he would cut his majority stake due to protests from the newspaper's owners and staff.

Journalists and democracy activists had denounced his attempt to buy into the paper as an attack on press freedom.

Mr Paiboon is known to be close to the Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

His takeover bid, announced earlier this week, had set off an outcry in Thailand, with many believing that it was a thinly concealed attempt by the prime minister to curtail criticism of his government.

Mounting anger

Pressure on Mr Paiboon to abandon his takeover bid had been building throughout the week.

Editorials in at least one Thai newspaper attacked the move as an "assault on press freedom".

Calls mounted for a boycott of Mr Paiboon's music business. The concern voiced in much of the Thai media was that if he took over Matichon, it would be yet another move by Mr Thaksin's government to silence its critics.

The newspaper has long been known for the quality of its investigative reporting, and boasts a circulation of 400,000 - making it one of the most influential voices in the Thai media.

In making his bid, Mr Paiboon tried to calm his critics, saying he would not interfere in the paper's running. But few seemed to believe him.

On Friday, in a big turn-around, a joint statement by Grammy and the chairman and founder of Matichon stated that Mr Paiboon would sell 12% of his majority holding of 32% in Matichon.

The statement said Mr Paiboon had given up his ownership ambitions, after the board and employees of the newspaper made clear their unhappiness over his hostile takeover bid.

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