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John Malone's Liberty Media Raises Stake in Sirius XM to 48 Percent

Sirius XM Satellite Radio Logo - H 2011

The company is inching closer to taking control of the satellite radio firm as CEO Mel Karmazin's future remains unclear.

John Malone's Liberty Media has further increased its stake in Sirius XM Radio as it continues to come closer to taking control of the satellite radio firm led by CEO Mel Karmazin

Liberty now owns a 48 percent stake in Sirius, according to a regulatory filing Tuesday night. That is up from around 46 percent previously.

Liberty said it spent about $225 million on stock purchases in recent days and agreed to buy an additional 41 million shares.

Liberty took a 40 percent stake in Sirius in 2009, but the relationship between the two companies' management teams became tense this year after Liberty asked the FCC to confirm its effective control of the satellite radio firm. Sirius disagreed, and the FCC has since reviewed the issue again.

Karmazin, whose contract expires at the end of the year, recently clarified earlier comments that observers had taken to mean that he would leave if Malone took control.

Liberty has left all its options open. Some observers expect that Liberty will simply achieve control by buying additional Sirius stock and take its stake beyond 50 percent. Some expect that Liberty could merge the part of its business that holds the Sirius stake and various other investments  with Sirius.

But Liberty seems in no rush. Last week, CEO Greg Maffei said Liberty will want to earn back its investment into Sirius shares, signaling that it could make Sirius buy back stock or pay dividends.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai