The Money Shot - Enter the Swamp Alligator

Rupert Murdoch in pirate hat battles alligator in business suit
A swamp alligator and an Australian media tycoon square up over the British broadband market, yesterday
"when two hulking corporate behemoths like BskyB and Liberty Global lock horns for business, it can often mean good news for us consumers"
  • | by Kristian Dando

With its heritage in long-forgotten firms like NTL and Telewest Broadband, the telecommunications company currently known as Virgin Media has suffered from a series of identity crises that Mick Foley would squirm at.

Heck, even the ‘Virgin’ bit seems a bit of a misnomer – beardy tycoon and balloon enthusiast Dickie Branson, who fronts the firm’s ads with fast Jamaican man Usain Bolt, owns just a 3% stake in the company.

And change is afoot once again at Virgin Media Towers – with a new owner whose reputation precedes him.

John Malone, chief of American communications megacorp Liberty Global, has earned himself edifying nicknames like ‘The Swamp Alligator’ and ‘Darth Vader’ -  the latter being coined by none other than former US presidential candidate Al Gore. And he’s just taken control of Virgin Media and is set to duke it out with an old foe – octogenarian BSkyB bigwig Rupert Murdoch. The two last faced off a decade ago over the purchase of an American satellite TV company, and industry insiders are promising a 'slugfest'.

Now, the telecommunications sparks are really set to fly, with Virgin apparently set to undertake an ‘aggressive’ (oo-err) assault on the broadband market. Plans are already afoot to add significantly to its five million strong customer base.

And while we’re instructed from birth that conflict is usually a bad thing, when two hulking corporate behemoths like BSkyB and Liberty Global lock horns for business, it can often mean good news for us consumers. We hopefully can look forward to the pair of them falling over themselves to offer tantalising deals and offers to entice us to switch our broadband, digital TV and home phones packages.

So, deal-hungry reader – keep an eye out. Darth and the Digger are set to go toe to toe. Let’s hope that it's us consumers that end up being the real winners.

While you're here, why not enjoy this amazing impression of Malone and Murdoch's broadband face-off by Covered's artist-in-residence, Gemma Batten?

Rupert Murdoch in pirate hat battles alligator in business suit

SHORT CHANGE – The week’s Money news in brief

Publicity-shy Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis will be looking even more pleased with himself than usual with the news that his campaign for personal finance education to be taught in schools has been successful.

Feel that? It’s the wind of change, and it’s blowing in the direction of the musty old banking sector. Customers will now be able to switch current accounts within seven days under the law. Well, that’s the plan anyway, as revealed by George Osborne earlier this week.

Hunky slab of Canadian banking beef Mark Carney has being questioned by the Treasury Select Committee, who were presumably all swooning into their afternoon tea at the sound of his dulcet British Columbian tones.

Thinking of passing on speeding points to a member of your family? Looking at the case of the disgraced Chris Huhne, it doesn’t seem worth it. And before you start feeling sorry for Chris, bear in mind he was driving a car emblazoned with a personalised HUIINE number plate at the time he committed the offence. Still feel sorry now? No, didn’t think so.

It’s a well-known fact that upwards of 75% of the internet is made up of funny cat videos and pictures. So it’s little surprise that an internet vote run by Monopoly to find a new piece for the game was won by a feline figurine.

Mixed bit of economic news here: ‘Experts’ have predicted ‘feeble’ growth for Britain’s economy this year. However, retail sales were up 1.9% over the previous year in January. Swings and roudabouts, folks. Swings and roundabouts.


Dinosaurs, bagpipes, 80s toys and the musician Sting make an appearance in this gallery of kooky contents added to home insurance policies.

Do you have a patriotic pet? Well, you could feed them for a year by entering this here competition.

Dan Bevis donned his pith helmet, armed himself with a machete and delved deep into the urban jungle to bring you a sextet of cars which make light work of city living.

Get ready to despair – one in five motorists don’t know what a national speed limit sign looks like.

Would you stay at a stranger’s house when on holiday? It’s not quite as barmy as you think, as Jon Severs explains.


A stand-in stripper has been arrested after attacking the group of women he was meant to be ‘entertaining’ after they booed him off stage.

More than 150 women  had paid £10 a head for an erotic ‘Ladies Night’ at the Baltic Inn near Llanelli, where they were due to take in a performance from a male performer called Fabio.

However, the stud had to cancel at the last minute, and Fantasy Strip, the agency which was meant to be supplying the talent, sent 29-year old Cardiff man Leon Zbudowskyj in his place.

Leon’s performance – which consisted of him spitting frothy cream at the audience before sitting on a chair in the middle of the stage – was met with a frosty reception from the crowd - by now, baying for blood - who promptly started hurling insults and objects at him.

Zbudowskyj then lost his cool and dived into the crowd, sparking a large brawl – at which point the local police were called in.

Compere Debra Jones remarked: “He was diabolical, he was disgusting, he just didn’t have anything, no music, no dance routine. He looked like he had come off the street, he looked dirty, he was unshaven and he didn’t have a six pack. In fact he looked like he had been hit in the face with a wok. He just wasn’t the sort of person you wanted to see take their kit off.”

Fantasy Strip responded: "It was the first time we used him and he let us down big time. We will certainly not be working with him again, we’ve been doing this for more than 10 years and we’ve never had an experience like this.”

Join us next week for another THRILLING instalment of THE MONEY SHOT