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Liberty Bid With News Corp. for DirecTV Likely

January 08, 2003|From Bloomberg News

Liberty Media Corp.'s chief executive said he's "reasonably optimistic" that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. will agree to bid jointly with his company for a stake in satellite-television broadcaster DirecTV Inc.

Liberty Chief Executive Robert Bennett also said Liberty wants to buy a controlling stake in Vivendi Universal's U.S. entertainment assets, which include Universal Music Group, Universal Studios and the USA and Sci-Fi Channel cable networks.

Bennett has said previously that Liberty, controlled by billionaire cable investor John Malone, might bid for DirecTV, a unit of El Segundo-based Hughes Electronics Corp., either by itself or in partnership with News Corp.

"We've been talking with News Corp. about a transaction where we would acquire a large stake in Hughes Electronics," Bennett said. "Given the history of our relationship with News Corp., we are reasonably optimistic we'd be able to work that out."

Bennett spoke at a Salomon Smith Barney investor conference in La Quinta.

Liberty owns 18% of News Corp. and agreed two years ago to help finance an acquisition of Hughes that News Corp. had proposed. Hughes rejected that offer and agreed to sell itself to EchoStar Communications Corp. until regulators blocked that transaction late last year.

Spokesmen for News Corp. and Hughes declined to comment. Bennett said he also has held talks with General Motors Corp., which owns about 30% of Hughes.

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