SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia’s Ten Network Holdings said on Monday that three media magnates have put up A$30 million ($23 million) to keep it running until the end of August while the television broadcaster looks to secure a deal with a buyer.
The funding guarantee from News Corp co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch, Crown Resorts Ltd casino boss James Packer and regional TV owner Bruce Gordon buys the network time as the industry waits to see if the country’s media ownership laws will be relaxed.
PPB Advisory, Ten’s newly appointed receivership specialist, said the deal would allow the firm, the lowest rating of Australia’s three national free-to-air broadcasters, to continue as a “going concern” until it is sold or recapitalized.
It was, however, not immediately clear what would happen if no buyer was found before Aug. 31. PBB declined to comment further.
The three business tycoons, who jointly own nearly 30 percent of Ten, have not commented on their plans for the TV station. But administrator KordaMentha said last month that they plan to financially support the network, adding that there had been “quite a number” of expressions of interest from potential acquirers.
“This Murdoch group needs to make sure no one gets in there and picks up this company for a relatively small amount of money because obviously Murdoch wants to end up owning Network Ten,” said media analyst Peter Cox.
A bill to ease media ownership laws is set to be debated in parliament in August. While it has the support of the federal government, it faces opposition in the Senate where independent politicians hold the balance of power.
Australian cable TV company Foxtel, of which Murdoch’s News Corp owns 50 percent, holds 14 percent of Ten and it is widely viewed as the most likely buyer if media ownership laws are relaxed.
Existing rules make it illegal for one company to own television, radio and newspapers in one place. News Corp currently publishes about two-thirds of Australian newspapers, and Murdoch personally owns a radio station, so he would face regulatory hurdles in buying Ten under current law.
Ten shares have been suspended from trading since it called in administrators last month.
They were called after Murdoch and Gordon declined to extend support for a A$200 million ($152 million) debt facility past 2017. The move was widely seen as a necessary step to help Ten re-negotiate costly content licensing fees with U.S. production studios.
Reporting by Ben Cooper; Editing by Byron Kaye and Edwina Gibbs