WIN TV becomes biggest shareholder in Nine ahead of potential media ownership reforms

NineBillionaire Bruce Gordon’s regional WIN TV network has taken a 13 per cent share of Nine Entertainment Co as networks continue to position for mergers ahead of potential reform to media ownership laws.

The network is now the biggest shareholder in Nine after buying the stake from private equity firm Apollo Group in a move which makes it the biggest shareholder in the metropolitan TV network. Gordon is also the largest stakeholder in Network Ten.

The regional TV networks, Prime, Win and Southern Cross Austereo have all been actively lobbying for media reform changes, including the abolition of the reach rule and rules preventing ownership in more than two mediums.

Were the government to introduce such media reforms it would likely spark a raft of media mergers among the TV networks with Nine considered a key player in such deals.

The speculation had been that Nine was most likely to merge with Southern Cross Austereo, were the reforms to go through. However, the WIN stake in Nine will now likely give Gordon a prime seat in any potential negotiations with Nine or Ten, where he is the company’s largest shareholder with a 12.62 per cent stake.

Gordon was a key obstacle in Ten’s attempts to sell the TV network to either Discovery or Foxtel with the billionaire using his stake to block any majority ownership deal and at one stage even launching his own debt proposal.

In a statement WIN said: “WIN Corporation announced today that its related entity, Birketu Pty Ltd (“Birketu”), a private investment company owned by the Gordon family, has entered into an agreement to increase its shareholding in WIN’s affiliation partner Nine Entertainment Co. Holdings Limited (“Nine”) with the result that on completion of theagreement WIN and Birketu will in aggregate own approximately 14.95% of Nine.

“WIN has been a long time investor in Free to Air Television in Australia with investments in a number of Television broadcasters.

“WIN and the Gordon family have had a close association with Nine dating back to theearly days of television in Australia when Bruce Gordon was a director on Sir Frank Packer’s Channel Nineboard. WIN has been an affiliate of Nine in regional Australia for the last 26 years. WIN and Birketu were advised by KPMG Corporate Finance.”

Nine refused to be drawn on the reasons for the investment by Gordon but also noted that it has had a long term regional affiliation deal with WIN.

“Nine Entertainment Co has today been informed by Apollo, a substantial shareholder in NEC, that it has entered into an agreement for the sale of part of its shareholding in NEC to interests associated with WIN Corporation,” it said in a statement.

“The agreement relates to approximately 13 per cent of NEC and the transaction is expected to be complete on 9 November.”

WIN has been among the most strident advocates on the need for media reform, even pulling out of industry body FreeTV over disagreements between the TV networks.

It also sees Apollo, which was one of the companies which helped with the turnaround and float of Nine in 2013, reduced to a 9 per cent stake in the network, although it still retains a board seat.

Nine shares had fallen 0.62 per cent today to $1.61 as of 11.15am today.

Nic Christensen 

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