Television

News Corp, DirecTV hit by $1 billion fraud lawsuit

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MUMBAI: Darlene Investments a minority shareholder in DirecTV Latin America has filed a lawsuit against the Rupert Murdoch owned News Corporation, The DirecTV Group and their affiliates.



The suit is looking to block the restructuring of DirecTV Latin America. The companies are being sued for fraud and violation of fiduciary, contractual and other duties in connection with recently announced transactions in Latin America..



The suit alleges that the restructuring will improperly benefit DirecTV and threaten DirecTV Latin America's prospects and viability. Last year News Corp had taken a 34 per cent stake in DirecTV through its subsidiary The Fox Entertainment Group.



A few days ago News Corp and DirecTV had announced plans to reorganise and consolidate TV platforms in Latin America. The lawsuit is seeking more than $1 billion in damages for fraud committed by News Corp and DirecTV prior to the transactions.



Darlene has a 14 per cent stake in DirecTV's Latin American operations. It alleges that transactions with Sky, a DirecTV competitor, were the result of a gross undervaluation of the DirecTV's Latin American assets and fraudulent statements from News Corp.



The suit alleges that the arrangement breached noncompete agreements between competitors, and that News Corp. never intended to help DirecTV's Latin American operations. Rather, to get out of the noncompete violation, News Corp. planned to "dismantle" DirecTV, the suit claims..



The suit charges that News Corp. and DirecTV purposely misled the US Bankruptcy Court and Darlene with respect to their future commitment to the success of DirecTV Latin America. DirecTV had presented the Sky transactions to the DirecTV Board of Directors Audit Committee in January 2004 --before DirecTV Latin America's emergence from bankruptcy. However Darlene claims that this fact was concealed. The suit alleges that while News Corp's current subsidiaries were saying that they would grow and enhance DirecTV Latin America, News Corp and DirecTV knew that the exact opposite was true.



The suit asserts that in fact the parties were planning a transaction designed to deliver vast benefits to News Corp and its partners while inflicting critical harm to DirecTV Latin America and Darlene.



As per the proposed restructuring plans of DirecTV Latin America one of the things that will happen is the merger of Sky Brasil with DirecTV Brasil as per an agreement between News Corp, DirecTV and Globo. This will see DirecTV Brasil customers migrating to Sky Brasil. The DirecTV Group would acquire the interests of News Corp. and Liberty Media in Sky Brasil.



Meanwhile DirecTV's affiliate Galaxy Mexico will close its operations and sell its subscriber list to Sky Mexico. DirecTV customers in Mexico will be offered the opportunity to migrate to Sky Mexico. The DirecTV Group will acquire the interest of News Corp and jointly with Televisa, the interest of Liberty Media in Sky Mexico.

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