Inside Move: Quiero quixotically questing for savior

No formal offer made from Anschutz, says source

MADRID — Hope is fading fast for troubled Spanish digital terrestrial television operator Quiero.

For weeks now, the Spanish press has tubthumped the name of billionaire financier Philip Anschutz, suggesting he is weighing the purchase of a stake in the debt-laden pay TV platform. Per some press reports, the deal is even done.

But according to a close source, Anschutz Investments is studying a raft of possible investments in Europe; that’s its job. It did indeed look at Quiero, but no formal offer was made.

With the door closing on an Anschutz rescue, Quiero’s dire straits are getting direr. Launched May 2000, Quiero cumed estimated losses of 23.3 billion pesetas ($124.2 million) through December 2001. Last week, it laid off 20 of its 200 staff.

Led by Spanish bank Santander Central Hispano, the dominant shareholder in Auna, Quiero’s owners disagree over what to do with the platform.

Quiero lacks strong content with which to lure subscribers in a market that has two other, more powerful digital pay TV players: Canal Satelite Digital and Via Digital.

Having committed to sublet Britain’s Millennium Dome last December, Anschutz was dubbed the patron saint of lost causes by the British press. It may now be incumbent upon the Spanish government, which won kudos for pushing through early DTT-enabling legislation in Spain, to adopt that role with Quiero. Just how the government would bail out Quiero is another matter.

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