Packer takes 17.9% of Network Ten in surprise move

James Packer, the former owner of Australian commercial broadcaster Nine Network, has acquired a 17.88% stake in rival broadcaster Ten Network in a surprise move.

Packer, through his Consolidated Media Holdings company, paid about A$245 million (US$239 million) for the stake and used investment bank UBS to acquire the shares.

The surprise move catapults Packer back into the Australian free-to-air market after he sold the majority of PBL Media to private equity firm CVC Asia Pacific for A$4.6 billion in 2006 and the remaining stake in October 2008.

This deal has reignited rumours that Packer is keen to rebuild his media empire; Packer currently owns 25% of pay TV operator Foxtel and a 50% stake in sports broadcaster Fox Sports. He also recently purchased a stake in gambling outfit Crown.

Ten, which is run by chief executive Grant Blackley, is the third largest commercial broadcaster behind Seven and Nine but hopes that recent moves towards digital broadcasting will help it close the gap; the company is launching a digital channel Eleven next year after it signed a joint venture deal with Hollywood studio CBS Studios International and it also has high hopes for its dedicated sports channel One. Ten will report full-year earnings tomorrow.