Australia's Packer to sell Foxtel stake: reports

Australian tycoon James Packer is set to sell his 25 percent stake in pay-TV operator Foxtel for Aus$1 billion (US$1.03 billion) with News Corp. the likely buyer, reports said Thursday.

If the sale goes ahead, it will be the first time in a century that the Packer family will have no media interests in Australia, apart from a small stake in the Ten Network.

News Limited newspapers said Packer wants the cash to pursue a full merger of his Crown Casino in Melbourne and Sydney's Star Casino to create an Aus$10 billion gaming giant.

A sale of the Foxtel stake will add to the Aus$4.5 billion he received in 2006 from selling the family's long-held controlling stake in the Nine Network, an empire founded by his grandfather Frank Packer.

Communications giant Telstra Corp. owns 50 percent of Foxtel and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. the other quarter.

News Limited newspapers said News Corp., their parent company, would likely get first rights to buy the Packer interests, just days after a British parliamentary committee said Murdoch was not fit to run a major operation.

Australian billionaire Kerry Stokes's Seven Network could also be interested, the reports said.

Packer is the son of the late mogul Kerry Packer but since his death has moved away from the family's traditional media business and focused on creating a worldwide gaming empire.

As well as Australia, he has casino interests in Macau, the world's biggest gaming hub.

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