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(Reuters) - U.S. media executive Harry Sloan has approached private equity firm CVC Capital Partners CVC.UL to buy a controlling stake in its asset, Australia's debt-ridden Nine Entertainment, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said.
Sloan has put in a "low ball" indicative offer for the stake but has not heard back formally from CVC, said the source, who declined to be named as talks are confidential. The source added the approach was very preliminary and may not materialize into an offer.
The Australian Financial Review (AFR), which first reported the approach, said on Thursday Sloan was pushing to value Nine at A$3 billion ($2.9 billion), a price CVC does not consider to be fair for a media conglomerate that has free-to-air TV stations, magazines and digital businesses in Australia.
Sloan, a former chairman of Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer MGMYR.UL, was in Sydney earlier this month to talk with CVC on a deal, the AFR said, citing banking sources.
The purchase is being targeted through Global Eagle Acquisition Corp (EAGL.O), a special purpose acquisition company Sloan created last year. Merrill Lynch is advising Sloan.
CVC declined to comment on the story when contacted by Reuters. A Merrill Lynch spokeswoman in Sydney could not be reached for comment immediately.
Nine has A$2.7 billion of senior debt due in February 2013 and CVC is looking to restructure Nine to help reduce the debt and keep at bay hedge funds that want to wrest control.
CVC is also planning to sell Nine's Ticketek, Australia's largest sports and entertainment ticketing agency, a source said in April.
Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang & Narayanan Somasundaram; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman