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murdochs big match Sunday, 11 April, 1999, 08:10 GMT 09:10 UK
Murdoch says no 'holy war' over Man Utd
Rupert Murdoch: No economic grounds for refusal
Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has rejected suggestions that he might start a "jihad" - or holy war - over the government's decision to block his takeover of Manchester United FC.

Murdoch's big match
The 623m bid by satellite broadcaster BSkyB was turned down by Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers on Friday, on the recommendation of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

Mr Murdoch, whose News Corporation media empire has a controlling interest in BSkyB, told a national newspaper: "Yes, I'm disappointed. But we're not going to start a jihad on the government or anything like that."

He was referring to a potential souring in relations between himself and Prime Minister Tony Blair over the issue.

Many observers suggest a major factor in Labour's May 1997 general election victory was the decision by the UK's bestselling national newspaper The Sun - also owned by News International - to change its allegiance from the Tories in the run up to the poll.

Mr Blair has done much to court good relations with Mr Murdoch and it had been thought that the Man Utd deal could be forced through in order to avoid a rift with the Australian tycoon.

Speaking to Sunday Business, Mr Murdoch criticised the decision to block the takeover as having no sound economic grounds.

He said that assurances his empire had given before buying major US sports teams like baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers had "stuck".

It was hard to understand why similar assurances and concessions were not good enough in the UK, he said.

BSkyB launched its bid for the Manchester United last October, when the club's board agreed to a takeover. Fans and MPs led vocal opposition to the move.

It was subsequently referred to the competition watchdog, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC), which recommended that it should be rejected.

Outlining his reasons for agreeing with the MMC, Mr Byers said: "I accept their conclusions that the merger would damage the quality of British football by reinforcing the trend towards growing inequalities between the larger richer clubs and the smaller, poorer ones."

See also:

12 Mar 99 | murdochs big match
09 Apr 99 | The Company File
09 Apr 99 | murdochs big match
09 Apr 99 | FA Carling Premiership
12 Mar 99 | murdochs big match
09 Apr 99 | murdochs big match
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