Murdoch’s Fox offices raided as EU probes sports rights ‘cartel’
Seizure of files from London HQ raises new questions about media mogul’s potential takeover deals
The UK headquarters of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox have been raided by the European Commission as part of a continent-wide investigation into a possible sports broadcasting cartel.
Investigators are believed to have “gained access to the company’s offices in Hammersmith, west London, early on Tuesday to seize documents and computer records”, reports The Daily Telegraph.
According to the newpaper’s sources, the officials were attempting to keep a low profile, and staff have been warned to keep details of the raid secret.
In a statement, the European Commission said it had concerns that Fox and other companies that were raided “violated EU anti-trust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices”.
“Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step into suspected anti-competitive practices... [It] does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself,” the statement said.
A spokesperson for Murdoch’s company confirmed: “Fox Networks Group (FNG) is cooperating fully with the EC inspection.”
FNG is an “operating unit of Fox, which distributes TV and cable channels and content around the world”, says The Guardian.
Fox is currently in a protracted takeover bid of Sky that “has caught the eye of UK and European regulators”, says NPR. Fox wants to buy the 61% of Sky that it does not already own as part of a $15bn (£10.6bn) deal.
In January, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) “provisionally found that if the deal went ahead as planned, it would give the Murdoch family too much control over news providers in the UK”, says The Guardian.
“The regulator scrutinising the deal feared it could lead to the Murdoch Family Trust holding too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda.”
Following a full investigation, the CMA is due to make recommendations to UK Culture Secretary Matt Hancock by next month on whether to allow or block the deal.