The financial press is saying News Corp. is close to an agreement to buy back Liberty Media’s $11 billion stake in Rupe’s media giant. The Wall Street Journal, quoting people familiar with the situation, say Liberty in exchange would get News Corp’s 38+% stake in satellite-TV firm DirecTV Group — which is big, BIG news — as well as some cash and other assets. The agreement, which could be finalized in the next few weeks, would end a two year old stand-off between the two companies over Liberty’s accumulation of a 19% voting interest in News Corp. in 2004. John Malone’s back-door stake in Rupe’s media conglomerate has bugged the crap out of Murdoch for years. Back during the News Corp. shareholders’ meeting in October, Rupe had predicted a “pretty quick resolution” with Malone. The big news there was that shareholders approved an extension of that “poison pill” anti-takeover measure by a rather vote of 57 percent. The slim margin of success indicated shareholder’s discontent with Murdoch, who controls the company by virtue of his family’s 31% stake in the company’s voting shares. But the approval gives Rupe greater leverage over media investor Malone, the chairman of Liberty Media Corp., whose surprise move to suddenly accumulate a stake (now about 19%) in News Corp.’s voting shares — now at 19% — prompted News Corp. to first adopt the poison pill measure in November 2004. Murdoch had predicted a deal to swap Malone’s stake for an asset owned by News Corp. Which also explains why Murdoch has been trash-talking DirecTV of late. The only other possibility would have been Liberty acquiring TV stations from News Corp., and they’re a license to print money, right?

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