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Tuesday, August 10, 1999 Published at 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK

Business: The Company File

Granada and BSkyB target Leeds

Leeds United's Elland Road ground has been short of recent glory

The owner of Leeds United Football Club has confirmed it has held talks with a number of media companies as speculation grows that both Granada and BSkyB want to buy stakes in the club.

Television-to-hotels group Granada confirmed on Monday it has held talks about buying a 9.9% stake in Leeds Sporting, the club's owner.

That news was welcomed in the City where shares in Leeds Sporting jumped 12%.

[ image: Granada is better known for Coronation Street than football]
Granada is better known for Coronation Street than football
But Granada is not alone in wanting to buy a stake in the club, with Leeds Sporting saying on Tuesday it has held talks with a number of media companies regarding "a wide range of business activities".

The others are reported by the Mirror newspaper to include Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB satellite television operation.

BSkyB, blocked by competition regulations from taking over Manchester United, is keen to build up a series of smaller stakes in Premier League clubs.

Granada already holds a 9.9% stake in rival club Liverpool after signing a £22m deal last month which also gives Granada the job of promoting the club through merchandising, book publishing and the sale of broadcast rights.

Like the reports about BSkyB, Granada is believed to have spoken to several different football clubs after signing the deal with Liverpool.

It is understood that if it was successful in buying a stake in Leeds Sporting, Granada would help promote the club in a similar way to Liverpool.

Shadow of Manchester

The 9.9% limit to the share ownership Granada can take is important because under the English Football Association's rules, companies cannot hold more than a 10% stake in any one club and shares in another.

Manchester-based Granada owns a third of ITV plus restaurants, hotels and TV hire shops.

In theory there would be nothing to stop one or both of the media firms from buying a 9.9% stake in all Premier League clubs.

The attraction for the media groups is that they would be well positioned to win, or influence, future contracts for televising games, which is expected to be very lucrative with the advent of pay-per-view broadcasts.

Yorkshire based Leeds United finished fourth in the English Premier League last season and, like Liverpool, the club is trying to regain former glories in the shadow of arch rival Manchester United's successes on and off the pitch.

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