By Byron Kaye and Tom Westbrook
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Creditors of Australia’s embattled Ten Network Holdings Ltd (AX:TEN) on Tuesday agreed to a A$209.7 million ($167 million) buyout from CBS Corp (N:CBS), effectively ending a battle for control between the U.S. broadcasting giant and Lachlan Murdoch.
Creditors chose CBS at a vote in Sydney after the U.S. company sweetened its offer by A$8.6 million late on Monday, following a counter-offer from Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch, and his business partner Bruce Gordon.
“The industry is generally excited about having a A$27 billion big brother looking after channel Ten,” administrator Mark Korda told reporters after the meeting, adding CBS overwhelmingly won the vote by value and number.
Barring any further legal challenge from Murdoch and Gordon, the deal will be complete once it gains regulatory approval, including from Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board.
CBS, Ten’s biggest creditor, swooped on the free-to-air network after it went into administration three months ago, elbowing aside an earlier offer from Twenty-First Century Fox (O:FOXA) Executive Chairman Murdoch and Gordon.
Although a ratings laggard, Ten’s national reach and strong brand recognition in the world’s 12th-largest economy have made it an attractive buyout target. The deal will allow CBS to launch its streaming service in Australia.
CBS took the upper hand in the takeover battle after winning a court challenge from the media moguls on Monday.
A Murdoch representative was not immediately available for comment, while a Gordon spokeswoman declined to comment on the outcome of Tuesday’s vote. A CBS spokesman said he expected the deal to complete.
CBS was assured of winning the creditors vote by value because the U.S. network is owed more than half of Ten’s A$609.1 million in debt.
However it also clinched votes from hundreds of Ten employees, creditors since they are owed pension and leave entitlements, to win the vote by number.
After the meeting a Ten employee said they were relieved at the outcome and had feared a Murdoch victory would have led to consolidation with other media assets and newsroom job losses.
“Everybody was going to do equal or better under CBS,” said the employee, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to comment publicly.
“Staff were concerned about the impact on the company or the newsroom if the CBS offer was rejected. Staff are more excited about the company under CBS than they are under the other deal.”
($1 = 1.2555 Australian dollars)