SBD/2/Franchises

MURDOCH LOOKING TO STAPLE DOWN DEAL TO BUY SHARE OF LAKERS

          News Corp. Chair Rupert Murdoch "is near agreement on
     deals to buy part of the new Staples Center and part of the
     Lakers," according to Heisler & Hofmeister of the L.A.
     TIMES.  Under the deals, "which would be announced in
     stages, Fox would purchase 40% of the arena and a similar
     percentage" of the NHL Kings' option to buy a piece of the
     Lakers.  Because the Kings' option is for 25% of the Lakers,
     Fox would become a 10% owner.  One source: "It's a done
     deal, at least as far as the arena is concerned."  Fox has
     cable rights to the Dodgers, Lakers, Kings and Clippers and
     is "pushing to hold on to those rights as part of its
     rivalry" with Disney, which will form ESPN West.  Heisler &
     Hofmeister report that the Fox Group originally tried to
     purchase 40% of the entire Kings franchise, but "was turned
     down" by the NHL because Fox has a 20% stake in Madison
     Square Garden -- as part of its Fox/Liberty entity -- making
     it a minority Owner of the Rangers.  Fox then restructured
     the deal to purchase the Kings' arena and their option on
     the Lakers.  A source "close to the negotiations," said the
     deal would give Murdoch "creeping control of the Kings,
     through the backdoor."  Fox's MSG stake also give it a share
     of the Knicks, but NBA rules allow minority owners to hold
     noncontrolling shares of multiple teams (L.A. TIMES, 4/2).

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