BSkyB pulls up stake in Man United

Rumors of takeover heat up with fewer investors in frame

LONDON — Rupert Murdoch-backed satcaster BSkyB has sold its 9.9% stake in the Manchester United soccer club for £62 million ($104 million) to Cubic Expression, the investment vehicle of Irish racehorse magnates JP McManus and John Magnier.

The duo now owns 23.15% of the shares.

With BSkyB out of the frame, and many shares concentrated in the clutches of fewer investors, rumors of a takeover are heating up. Shares rose by 8.5% to a high of $4.23 in afternoon trading, boosting the value of the Red Devils to $1.071 billion.

The 26 million BSkyB shares were sold to Cubic Expression for $3.97 each. City Analysts told Daily Variety that BSkyB had “got out at a good time” given that the shares had dipped to $1.50 at one stage.

The sale ends News Corp.’s interest in the club it tried to purchase five years ago for $1.035 billion. After opposition from fans, rival clubs and politicians, that move was blocked by competition authorities concerned about a possible conflict of interest. Broadcasters were subsequently banned from owning a stake of more than 10% in a soccer club.

BSkyB retains 9.9% of Manchester City, 8.8% of Leeds United and 4.8% of Sunderland.

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