De Mol kicking off probe

Dutch media mogul bidding for premier league rights

AMSTERDAM — Media mogul John de Mol’s Talpa Holding has filed a complaint with the Dutch justice department, asking it to investigate fraudulent claims sent to some of Europe’s top soccer clubs.

The claims state that Talpa is interested in making significant investments in their operations.

One letter alleges that Talpa wanted to invest in the Spanish soccer club Atletico Madrid, another that it was interested in putting coin into Leeds United and Lazio Roma.

Talpa is in the midst of sensitive bidding for the Dutch premiere soccer rights for 2005-06, which have been held by pubcasters for some 40 years.

“The fraudulent claims could damage our reputation, but it is also probable that those involved in the fraud will try to extract money under false pretenses,” said De Mol spokesman Thomas Notermans.

The complaint is the first formal step needed before the police will investigate the matter.

Talpa has acquired the rights to broadcast six away games for the Dutch team in the qualification rounds for the world championship cup in 2006, outbidding all contenders.

Two of those games have already been broadcast on the Dutch Nickelodeon channel as a promotion for De Mol’s launch in August of an evening block of programming that will lean heavily on sports and family entertainment.

Endemol co-founder De Mol stepped down from his position of chief creative officer of that company May 1. He has said going into broadcasting fulfills one of his lifelong ambitions.

If De Mol is able to bring home the premiere league rights, it will be a coup for his new venture and squelch criticism that his wading into broadcasting, an area he has little experience in, is ill conceived.

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