One should not gloat at another’s financial misfortune – but I’m going to make an exception in the case of the Murdochs, who bought an almost 18% share in ITV over two years ago, only to have to admit defeat in their efforts to hold on to the shares, resulting in the sale of 10.4% of the broadcaster.
Why sell? Well, the purchase of such a large stake in a rival broadcaster – the company buying the shares was BSkyB – was almost immediately called out for being anti-competitive, and the Murdoch clan had been fighting a decision to force them to sell most of the stake. They finally lost the fight last month.
But, so what? Well, ITV shares are worth a lot less now than when BSkyB bought into the company. Luckily for Rupe and his troops, the share price has recovered from its low of 20p to more than 45p, but BSkyB bought at 135p. That means a loss of around 350 million notes.
To its credit, even the Murdoch Times has covered the sale. And so they should: to record that their owners bought up almost a fifth of a competitor’s shares just to stop ITV merging with NTL (since renamed Virgin Media). After all, that would have been allowing competition, and as we’ve seen with the attempts of Murdoch Junior to have the BBC hobbled, competition is something that the Murdochs favour only when and if it is on their terms.