The London offices of Rupert Murdoch's Fox Networks Group were raided by investigators from the European Commission, kicking off a wide-ranging investigation of anticompetitive behavior related to sports media distribution rights.
The unannounced inspections were carried out in several European countries at companies that are active in distributing rights related to sporting events or the broadcasting of sporting events, the commission said Tuesday in a statement. The commission, which did not name any of the companies, said it is concerned that those companies may have breached competition rules.
Investigators are expected to stay through Wednesday and possibly Thursday at the West London offices of the Fox Networks Group, according to the Daily Telegraph, which first reported the raid. The company said it's cooperating with the officials.
Such raids are a first step in investigating suspected anticompetitive practices and do not signal guilt, the commission said.
The investigation comes at a difficult time for 21st Century Fox Inc., the owner of Fox Networks, which has spent months trying to gain U.K. and European Union approval to purchase Sky, the big European pay-TV service. The EU approved the acquisition last April, and U.K. regulators continue to assess it. In February, Comcast Corp. topped Murdoch's offer for Sky with a $31-billion bid.
Last week, Fox offered to spin off the Sky News network as an independent company or sell it to Walt Disney Co. to address lawmakers' concerns about having too much influence in British Media.
Murdoch's 21st Century Fox has agreed to sell most of its entertainment assets, including its stake in Sky, to Disney in a $52.4-billion deal.
Sky has 22 million subscribers in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.
Britain's Competition and Markets Authority said in late January that the Fox takeover did not appear to be in the public interest. It worried that the deal would give Rupert Murdoch and his family too much control over media in Britain. The Murdochs also control the publishing company News Corp., which owns the Times of London, the Sunday Times and the Sun tabloids.
Times staff writer Meg James contributed to this report.
4:05 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details about the European Commission's concerns.