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BSkyB may score Leeds stake

Deal estimated at $12 million

LONDON — BSkyB will reportedly pick up a 9.9% stake in the Leeds United soccer club this week in what could be the first of several such deals.

The stake in Leeds is thought to be worth about $12 million. Rumors that the satcaster is also negotiating with Chelsea have been denied by the soccer club.

Rights wrangling

Acquiring minority stakes in soccer clubs could give BSkyB leverage to extend its rights to the English Premier League, presently held by the satcaster until the 2001-2 season, including pay per view.

BSkyB already owns 11% of Manchester United, the legacy of its government-blocked attempt to take over the most important team in the league. If BSkyB buys into Leeds or another club, that stake would have to be reduced to no more than 9.9%, the most a media group is allowed to own if it has shares in more than one team.

But BSkyB is being given a run for its money.

Other players

Granada bought 9.9% of Liverpool United for $35.2 million last month and is believed to be talking to other clubs, as is fellow ITV network company Carlton. Carlton and Granada co-own ONdigital, the terrestrial rival to BSkyB’s SkyDigital.

And cabler NTL holds 6% of Newcastle United, shares it acquired last fall when it echoed BSkyB’s Manchester bid and initiated a takeover attempt of its own. NTL insists it is not currently talking to any clubs.

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