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Ten Offers Board Seats to Packer, Lachlan Murdoch

Ten Network Holdings Ltd. offered James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch a board seat each less than two weeks after Packer’s Consolidated Press Holdings Ltd. acquired 18 percent of Australia’s third-ranked television broadcaster.

“The company has offered Packer and Murdoch the opportunity to take up two directorships on the Ten Holdings board, which it considers to be appropriate representation for this shareholding,” the Sydney-based broadcaster said in a statement today. “If this offer is taken up, the Ten Holdings board will comprise 10 directors.”

Billionaire Packer has spent about A$280 million ($277 million) acquiring Ten shares in his first move into free-to-air TV since relinquishing control of the rival Nine network in 2008. Murdoch, 39, son of News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, is negotiating to acquire half of Packer’s stake in Ten, the Australian newspaper reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the situation.

Packer, 43, also owns 49 percent of Consolidated Media Holdings Ltd., which in turn has 25 percent of Foxtel, Australia’s largest pay-TV operator.

The offer of board seats comes less than three years after Packer and Murdoch scrapped a A$3.2 billion bid for Consolidated.

Ten gained 1.4 percent to A$1.46 at the 4:10 p.m. close of trading in Sydney. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.8 percent.

‘New Chairman’

Executive Chairman Nick Falloon’s position will be changed to a non-executive role as part of the plan to restructure the board, Ten said in the statement. The board would “be prepared to discuss the implementation of this transition in an orderly manner and at a time to be agreed. Board consideration of the appointment of a new Chairman would follow at that time.”

In 2006, Packer agreed to sell half the holdings in Nine network and Australia’s largest magazine publisher to the PBL Media venture with buyout firm CVC Asia Pacific Ltd. to raise A$4.5 billion.

A year later, Packer’s Consolidated Media sold a further 25 percent for A$515 million before the remaining holding in PBL Media was diluted to less than 1 percent in 2008 when it didn’t provide more funding to the business.

Packer also owns 43 percent of Crown Ltd., Australia’s biggest casino operator.

While Ten’s total viewership trails Seven Group Holdings Ltd.’s Seven network and PBL’s Nine, it’s the most-watched channel by viewers in the 16-to 39-year-old demographic with programs such as MasterChef Australia, the Simpsons and the Australian drama series Neighbours.

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