LIBERTY Global’s interest in Virgin Media, announced yesterday, has reignited a rivalry between tycoons Rupert Murdoch and John Malone which dates back a decade.
Buying Virgin Media will put Malone in direct competition with BSkyB, which Murdoch’s News Corp owns 39 per cent of. The two firms are battling for control of the growing pay-TV market, while racing to sign up broadband and landline customers.
It will not be the first time the two men have locked horns, however.
After amassing a fortune from selling his cable TV company TCI to AT&T for $48bn at the height of the dotcom boom in 1999, Malone steadily bought shares in News Corp until he owned a threatening 16 per cent stake.
At the same time, News Corp and Malone’s Liberty Media were vying for control of DirecTV, the US’s largest satellite broadcaster.
Murdoch was then forced to give up his stake in DirecTV in exchange for Malone letting go of his share in News Corp, an agreement that was finalised in 2008.
Malone has since bought telecoms assets in Europe, part of Barnes & Noble, and TripAdvisor.
STRAIGHT TO CABLE: VIRGIN MEDIA’S STORY
Lengthy discussions between the UK’s two dominant cable operators results in NTL agreeing to pay $6bn to buy Telewest.
Just a few months after completing the merger NTL:Telewest agrees to buy Richard Branson’s Virgin Mobile in a deal valuing the phone network at £962.4m.
The company’s products are merged under the single Virgin Media brand. The business becomes the first UK operator to offer television, broadband, mobile phone and landline phone services on the same account.
Sky TV channels are removed from Virgin Media for 20 months in a dispute over costs.
Virgin Media launches the first widely available 100mb/s broadband service in the UK.
Virgin Media starts providing Wi-Fi on London Underground stations.