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The Sydney Morning Herald


Author: By STEPHEN HUTCHEON, in Canberra
Date: 04/03/1987
Words: 587
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Business
Page: 40
In a surprise development, prominent Sydney stockbroker, Mr Rene Rivkin, has emerged with a slice of the action from the carve-up of The Herald and Weekly Times empire.

The Trade Practices Commission last night announced that a Perth-based company called United Media Ltd would acquire the Perth afternoon newspaper, the Daily News from the former HWT subsidiary, West Australian Newspaper Ltd.

WAN's sale of the Daily News and a reduction in its previous 50 per cent ownership of Community Newspapers Ltd, to a minority stake paves the way for Mr Robert Holmes a Court to assume control over WAN.

News Ltd agreed to sell WAN to Mr Holmes a Court in mid-January as part of a deal where Bell Group dropped its bid for HWT. The TPC insisted that Bell divest some of its newspaper assets because it already owned a weekly newspaper, The Western Mail.

Mr Rivkin's interest comes through his controlling interest in his investment company, Oilmet Ltd, which has a 20 per cent stake in the diversified West Australian transport company Temples Ltd. Temples in turn owns about 45 per cent of United Media.

This is not Mr Rivkin's first involvement with media interests. Through a joint venture company, Mr Rivkin already owns 50 per cent of John Singleton Advertising and has a seat on the board.

In assessing the suitability of United Media to take control of the Daily News, the chairman of the TPC, Mr Bob McComas, said last night that the commission had taken into account that people such as Mr Rivkin, with proven business acumen, were backing the venture.

"... that assisted us to be satisfied that there were some significant people in that company who had the entrepreneurial skill, if you like, and also the financial backing to ensure the continued viability (of the newspaper)," Mr McComas said.

As part of the agreement reached between Mr Holmes a Court and the TPC, the Bell Group has also agreed to sell its suburban newspapers to Community Newspapers.

United Media was floated by Temple Ltd in November 1985. During the past week, United Media's share price has climbed from 50c to 65c on the back of the Daily News purchase rumour. The announcement of the sale was contained in a TPC announcement released last night which took the unusual step of justifying the commission's handling of the recent takeover of the HWT.

In the statement, Mr McComas said the commission believed that the Trade Practices Act had "successfully operated to avoid an undue concentration of newspaper ownership".

"It must be remembered, however, that the HWT Group itself held such a position," he said.

Having dissected the effects of the changes in ownership on a State-by-State basis, Mr McComas said: "In these circumstances, the commission is satisfied that the acquisition of The Herald and Weekly Times by News Ltd, viewed overall, has not increased concentration of ownership of the print media in Australia. Rather has ownership become more widespread."

Mr McComas also said the announcement was to counter arguments put forward during the takeover saga that the Government had no constitutional power to control newspaper ownership.

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