Gordon and Murdoch approach ACCC ahead of potential Ten bid

Daisy Doctor
By Daisy Doctor | 5 July 2017

Bruce Gordon and Lachlan Murdoch have approached the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to review a potential bid for the network, which recently entered voluntary administration and receivership.

The move is a normal procedure ahead of an M&A bid in markets where concentration is a concern.

In a statement, the competition watchdog confirmed it would evaluate the billionaire's bid for joint of control of Australia's third network.

Network Holdings by Gordon's Birketu and Murdoch's Illyria Nominees Television is a 50/50 shareholding split that would give both equal voting rights.

“This transaction is dependent upon the passage of the media reform bill and it is appropriate that the ACCC begin its review of the proposed transaction that has been put to us by the parties,” ACCC chair Rod Sims says.

“The ACCC will assess the potential effect upon advertisers and upon competition within free-to-air television and between free-to-air television and Foxtel, particularly in relation to sport, given the holdings of the main players involved.

"However, an ACCC investigation does not mean that the transaction raises competition concerns, but that further consideration is required for the ACCC to reach a view.”

The ACCC also released an indicative timeline of events for the review, listing 24 July as the closing date for submissions from interested parties and 24 August as the provisional date for announcement of ACCC's decision.

Media reforms hurdle

Gordon and Murdoch's bid for the network still hinges on the government's media reforms passing the Senate.

Gordon's ownership of WIN would mean his controlling interest would fall foul of the 'reach rule' in which a media company cannot have an audience greater than  75% of Australia's population.

Murdoch's bid would breach the two-out-of-three cross-media ownership rule, which prohibits media moguls from owning a newspaper, TV station and radio station in a single market, although doesn't prevent them from owning digital assets.

Ten was placed into voluntary administration on 14 June after three its three largest commercial backers and loan guarantors shied away from providing ongoing support to the business.

The stipping point for Ten to operate as a going concern was that Murdoch and Gordon would not support an extension to the network's loan facility, which expires in December.  

Murdoch and Gordon threatened to sue Ten's directors, further complicating Ten's stability. This forced Ten's directors' hands into placing the the business into administration.

Parliament will resume on 8 August to debate the media reforms package. Its passage hinges on crossbench support from either One Nation or the Greens to move the package forward, with the latter most likely to be swayed.

Labour steadfastly opposes the two-out-of-three laws.

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