The board of Manchester United Football Club has hired GJW to lobby
regulators for approval of its controversial takeover deal with
The board is understood to want to refocus the debate away from football
broadcasting rights and towards the interests of UK football.
BSkyB’s bid to buy the club was announced earlier this year and is
currently being investigated by competition authority the Monopolies and
Mergers Commission, which is due to report on the issue next March.
GJW’s work begins immediately and will last until Secretary of State for
Trade and Industry Peter Mandelson decides whether the bid should go
through. His decision is expected at the end of April.
GJW has been briefed to ensure that civil servants and politicians
involved in the investigation understand why it is in the interests of
the club that BSkyB be allowed to acquire Manchester United.
The account will be handled by GJW managing director Andrew Gifford and
director Rory Chisholm.
So far, the debate over whether BSkyB’s bid should be allowed to pass
has concentrated on the power it would give the company in the
negotiations for the TV rights to the FA Carling Premiership. Were it to
acquire the club, BSkyB would be represented on both the clubs’ and the
broadcasters’ sides of the negotiations.
BSkyB’s interests are being represented by Bell Pottinger. Meanwhile,
opposition to the bid is being orchestrated by ad hoc lobby group
Shareholders United Against Murdoch, whose members include Paul
Richards, a senior counsellor at Chelgate who has been handling media
relations for the group pro bono.
The shareholders group has lobbied MPs since BSkyB announced its bid
three months ago. Last month, Worsley MP Terry Lewis put forward an
early day motion in the House of Commons against the bid, which was
signed by over 140 MPs.