Wednesday, September 9, 1998 Published at 08:46 GMT 09:46 UK
United accepts £623m BSkyB bid
The famous ground of Old Trafford could soon be within the BSkyB business empire
Manchester United has officially confirmed to the London Stock Exchange that it has accepted a £623.4m bid from Rupert Murdoch's television company, BSkyB.
The move comes despite an outcry from fans and the threat of a high profile government investigation into the deal.
News of the higher offer caused Manchester United's shares to leap upwards again on the London stock market.
They rose more than 10% to 221p in early trading, and have now soared almost 40% since BSkyB first confirmed its interest in the club on Monday.
Manchester United share holders will receive 120p in cash and the rest in BSkyB shares.
Mr Murdoch's offer represents a 51% premium to the club's closing share price of 159p on Friday.
But the bid still has to be approved by shareholders and the Office of Fair Trading.
Its popularity has meant that it earns as much from merchandise sales and advertising as from gate receipts.
BSkyB, currently owns the rights to broadcast Premiership games live until 2001.
Murdoch papers' reports
The paper says BSkyB was forced to increase its bid after two Manchester United directors reckoned the club was being under-valued.
The figure represents about £30m more than if he had sold his shares on the open market on Friday.
Another winner will be non-executive director Maurice Watkins who, according to the club's last company report, owned around 2% of the club.
The stake would be valued by BSkyB under the deal at just over £12.5 million, up from just over £8 million on Friday.
Opposition to sale
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Peter Mandelson, has said any offer would be examined "very completely and extremely searchingly" by the Office of Fair Trading.
FA chief executive Graham Kelly said United had to explain the deal to its fans, adding: "We have to assess the implications very closely indeed."
Key deal for Rupert Murdoch
The takeover project was driven by Mark Booth, Chief Executive at BSkyB, in which Mr Murdoch's News Corporation owns a 40% stake.
It sprang from a lunch with United chief executive Martin Edwards, who himself stands to make £87m from his 14% stake in the club.
BskyB, Britain's most profitable broadcaster, has invested heavily in sports programming.
It paid £670m for the right to broadcast live football matches in 1996.
But those rights run out in 2001 - and by then some of the big clubs may want to sell their rights individually.
Looming over the deal is the question of pay-per-view television.
By some estimates the bigger clubs like Manchester United could share a bonanza of up to £2bn if fans had to pay a fee to watch each match rather than a fixed fee to BSkyB.
The deal would also secure BSkyB's position if a European super League were to go ahead, combining the best clubs in Europe.
Manchester United would be certain to be included in such an arrangement.