European Commission raids Fox as part of sports rights antitrust probe

The commission reportedly seized documents and computer records at Fox's London offices.
by Claire Atkinson /  / Updated 

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The European Commission seized records on Tuesday from the London offices of the Fox Networks Group, which houses 21st Century Fox international cable channels.

The Rupert Murdoch-controlled company confirmed that the commission's antitrust officials were investigating the company. A statement from corporate headquarters said Fox Networks Group was cooperating with the inquiry.

The Telegraph, a British newspaper, was first to report news of the surprise inspection and said a variety of documents and computer records were seized.

While not confirming the raid, the European Commission said in a statement on Tuesday that its officials carried out "unannounced inspections" at the premises of "companies active in the distribution of media rights and related rights pertaining to various sports events and/or their broadcasting."

The statement did not name any of the companies involved. The antitrust arm of the European Union, however, suggested that it was concerned that those involved may have violated EU rules that "prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices."

Fox Sports, one of Fox Network Group's brands, competes with Disney, which owns ESPN. Both companies acquire rights to sports events with global appeal, including soccer. Disney is in talks to acquire certain Fox assets, including its global cable unit, Fox Networks Group, and potentially Fox's 39 percent stake in satellite broadcaster Sky.

The European Commission statement also said its inspections did not mean that companies are guilty of anti-competitive behavior.

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