By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — Manchester United, one of the world’s most storied soccer franchises, is the subject of an audacious takeover bid by BSkyB, the satellite television channel controlled by Rupert Murdoch.
As part of Murdoch’s increasing commercial interest in British soccer — BSkyB currently pays $220 million a year to broadcast the English Premier League — he is now close to acquiring the biggest club of all.
Ten years ago, Manchester United’s chairman, Martin Edwards, could not find anyone to buy the club, which was then valued at $30 million. Now it is believed that the BSkyB bid values United at a staggering $800 million, a sum more than 20 times last year’s trading profits.
Two years ago, Murdoch spoke of sport being used as a "battering ram" to draw a wider market for the global pay-TV offered by News Corp., BSkyB’s parent company. As BSkyB launches its British digital TV service on Oct. 1, the trump card to attract subscribers could ultimately be exclusive rights to all Manchester United’s games on a pay-per-view basis.
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