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SBD Global/December 12, 2013/Finance

Mexican Billionaires Rivalry Plays Out On Country's Football Fields

Mexican billionaires Carlos Slim and Emilio Azcarraga, who typically go head-to-head for phone customers and TV viewers, are "taking their rivalry to the soccer field this week in their country’s championship game," according to Patricia Laya of BLOOMBERG. Slim, the owner of the nation’s biggest wireless carrier, is an investor in Club Leon, which is a finalist in Mexico’s national league. The team is squaring off against reigning champ Club America, controlled by TV magnate Azcarraga, in a two-game series starting Thursday in Leon’s home stadium. Caught "in the crossfire" are the legions of Mexican fans who "won’t be able to watch because of an agreement to televise the match only on cable for the first time." After Slim’s America Movil SAB acquired a stake in Leon last year, the club "signed a broadcast-rights deal with cable’s Fox Sports." Mexico City Iberoamericana University media and sports professor Miguel Angel Lara said, "Soccer in Mexico is not only a popular sport. It moves economic and politic interests. It’s more than a sport here." The Leon investment is "part of Slim’s effort to collect media assets, including a stake in soccer team Club Pachuca and the rights to air the Olympics, to attract viewers to America Movil’s website with exclusive programming." While the company "doesn’t have its own pay-TV service," it has said that recent changes in Mexican law "may give it the opportunity to enter the market." Slim "will also broadcast the games through America Movil’s online news outlet, Uno TV Noticias, which a growing number of Mexicans with smartphones can access." That is "aiding the billionaire in his battle against Azcarraga’s Televisa," which owns the nation’s most-watched over-the-air TV channel and has invested in cable TV and mobile-phone carriers, putting it "directly in competition with Slim." Lara: "Soccer is one of those scenarios where they can fight each other openly." Televisa, the nation’s largest broadcaster, will air the second leg of the final on Sunday when both teams play in Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium, owned by Televisa. Press officials for both companies "didn’t reply to requests for comment" (BLOOMBERG, 12/11).
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