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Liberty’s News Corp. Move Ahead of Schedule

Dec 21, 2004  •  Post A Comment

John Malone’s Liberty Media on Monday moved ahead with its plan to double its stake in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., executing the plan ahead of schedule.

In a filing submitted Monday to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Liberty said it entered into an agreement with investment bank Merrill Lynch to swap 86.9 million Class A News Corp. shares that Liberty owned in exchange for 92 million Class B News Corp. shares that Merrill owns. The number of Class B shares is 7.3 million more than previously announced.

Initially, Liberty had until April to complete the transaction. However, Liberty is now expecting to complete the swap by mid-January.

The move, which Liberty announced in November, raises Liberty’s stake in News Corp. to around 18 percent from 9.2 percent.

The move caught News Corp. off guard, leading the media giant to adopt a poison pill to protect Mr. Murdoch’s family’s control of the company.

Though Liberty officials have dismissed the notion that the move was hostile, some analysts speculate that Liberty is setting the stage to use the stake as leverage for an asset purchase.