CanWest’s Izzy Asper has described as “academic” a late bid for the Aussie Ten Network by representatives of Rupert Murdoch.

Last week, the web’s owners, the Westpac Bank, signed letters of intent with CanWest for the sale of the network (Daily Variety, Oct.20).

Canadian media magnate Asper, a former attorney specializing in tax law, stated that the letters of intent were binding as far as he was concerned, but didn’t rule out the possibility of discussions with Murdoch later on a joint venture.

In Sydney earlier this week, Murdoch steadfastly denied having ambitions to own the Ten Network again–he sold it for $ A800 million ($ 576 million) in early 1987–or indeed having any interest in terrestrial free-to-air services.

Packer as partner?

He admitted that he could see Kerry Packer as a partner in a satellite pay-TV operation, but stressed that no discussions of any kind had taken place.

But it now emerges that Murdoch’s champion, Sam Chisholm, so-called savior of Britain’s BSkyB, was in Sydney last week with London-based Aussie lawyer Bruce McWilliam in tow.

They were seeking local partners to form a consortium to top CanWest’s offer–still undisclosed, but rumored to be $ A200 million ($ 144 million) against the bank’s publicly announced asking price of $ 180 million.

According to sources in the banking community, Westpac execs told Chisholm that they refused to discuss the matter with him. There’s a “standstill clause” in the terms of the agreement with CanWest giving the latter breathing space to organize partners and obtain regulatory agreement on the proposal.

Foreign ownership laws preclude overseas interests acquiring more than 14.9% of a broadcaster; however, multiple offshore investors have a combined 20% limit.

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