Dirt is flying over Disney’s auction for 21 regional sports networks — leaving at least one regulatory expert wondering if Monday’s deadline for binding bids might be delayed.
A former high-level regulator who specialized in mergers told The Post on Friday that he thinks the Federal Trade Commission will take a serious look into complaints lodged this week by one of the bidders for the sports networks, who accused another bidder of playing dirty.
On Wednesday, Big3 Basketball — the pickup league co-founded by rapper Ice Cube — accused cable giant Charter Communications of resorting to dirty tricks to throw the auction in favor of its largest shareholder: Liberty Media, which is controlled by billionaire businessman John Malone.
In letters to the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission, Big3 accused Charter of “chilling” the bidding process ahead of Monday’s deadline by threatening to not carry the networks if they come under new ownership.
Liberty owns 25 percent of Charter, whose cable networks include Spectrum in New York City.
The former regulator, who asked not to be identified, said it is common for the FTC to halt an auction to assess allegations of manipulation.
Big3 refused to let up its fight on Friday, urging Twitter followers to “tell Charter to stop their anti-competitive actions.” One of the posts included a phone number for the cable company under a photo of Ice Cube and LL Cool J, who is one of Big3’s investors.
Liberty Media‘s buyout team includes the Atlanta Braves, the Minnesota Twins and the Detroit Pistons.
Major League Baseball is also vying for the regional cable and satellite TV network.
Disney must sell the sports networks, including SportsTime Ohio, by mid-June as a regulatory condition of its $71.3 billion merger with Fox.