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Tuesday, June 15, 1999 Published at 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK

Business: The Company File

Murdoch takes the reins at BSkyB

Murdoch steps in to keep control at BSkyB

Rupert Murdoch has taken over as chairman of BSkyB, tightening his control of the satellite broadcaster at a time when competition is hotting up in the television market.

Murdoch replaces Jerome Seydoux, who is standing down after his French film company, Pathe, agreed to sell its 17% stake in BSkyB to the French media and utilities group, Vivendi.

Vivendi can expect to gain a presence on the board of BSkyB, but it was thought likely that Murdoch would grab the chairman's seat to prevent Vivendi gaining too much influence.

The French group also owns a 34% stake in Canal Plus, one of BSkyB's main European rivals.

Murdoch's News Corporation is the biggest shareholder in BSkyB, with 40%. Murdoch is said to be wary of conflicts of interest with Canal Plus.

His daughter, Elisabeth, is already chief of programming at BSkyB, and some of the company's minority shareholders have said they would have preferred an independent chairman.

BSkyB - which recently bought control of the Italian digital pay-tv firm, Stream - currently faces powerful challenges in the British market from ONdigital and a number of cable companies.

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