On October 14, Rupert Murdoch tweeted: “Big media trials in London in 2 weeks. Remember, everyone innocent until proven guilty, entitled to fair trial in most countries.” Murdoch was referring to the criminal trial related to phone hacking at his now defunct News Of The World tabloid. This morning, eight defendants including former Murdoch employees Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson made it to court amid a media frenzy for what some are calling the “Trial of the Century.” It may feel like a century once the proceedings wrap sometime around Easter 2014 and after an expected 100 witnesses have been called. Jury selection began today with the prosecution starting later in the week.
While Murdoch, Brooks and Coulson are no longer linked professionally, the outcome of the trial has the potential to impact the mogul’s business going forward. Even the News Corp-owned Wall Street Journal wrote that the courtroom drama “could further embarrass both the media giant and the British government.” One of the lines of questioning during the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics, the probe hatched by Prime Minister David Cameron in the wake of the News Of The World scandal, focused on the relationships between politicians and newspaper proprietors and editors. With Brooks and Coulson now standing trial, this could put News Corp’s relationship with the UK government back into the spotlight. Brooks was head of News Corp‘s UK press arm, News International (now News UK), until the phone-hacking scandal first exploded at the News Of The World in July 2011. She has denied the five charges against her including conspiracy to hack phones, conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office by paying officials for stories, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Coulson was formerly editor of News Of The World. He went on to become Cameron’s spin doctor, a post he vacated in 2011. He is facing three charges related to phone hacking and conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office. They are joined by six other defendants who have all pleaded not guilty, including Brooks’ husband Charlie, a longtime Cameron friend. Read More »
UPDATE, 2:18 PM: The official results of today’s shareholder votes are in and while Fox management won resounding victories, the tallies show a few interesting nuances. Nearly 29% of those voting yes or no endorsed a shareholder resolution to make the chairman independent. Just 15.3% opposed the company’s management compensation plan in the government-mandated say-on-pay advisory vote. A shareholder proposal in the proxy to get rid of the dual stock system wasn’t considered because there was no one at the meeting to present it. As for the directors, the smallest victory margins went to Lachlan Murdoch (75.3%) and James Murdoch (80.5%) while the most popular candidate was BHP Billiton Chairman Jacques Nasser (99.2%). Rupert Murdoch was elected with 90.9%, behind COO Chase Carey’s 92.4%.
PREVIOUS, 10:49 AM: So much for the effort by some activist investors and advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services to protest 21st Century Fox’s corporate governance practices. In a shareholder meeting that lasted less than 34 minutes, CEO Rupert Murdoch said that all of the company’s board candidates had been re-elected. Company critics also wanted changes that would require the chairman to be independent (Murdoch now is both CEO and chairman), and to eliminate the dual classes of stock that enable the Murdoch family to control 39.4% of the votes even though it owns just 14% of the all shares. The exact vote on those resolutions will be disclosed later although the outcome isn’t in … Read More »
The BBC has commissioned more than 2,500 hours of programming that will span four years to mark the centenary of World War I. As part of the ambitious undertaking Rupert Murdoch will be interviewed about his father’s role as the whistle-blower who told the world the truth about the botched Gallipoli campaign in Turkey. The season kicks off in early 2014 and will run through 2018 on BBC TV, Radio and Online and across international, national and local services. At MipTV in April, BBC controller Ben Stephenson foreshadowed some of the plans when he announced five-part half-hour series The Great War from Life On Mars’ Tony Jordan. The series is now titled The Passing-Bells and will be stripped over one week. Other highlights include drama The Ark from Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations) and starring Oona Chaplin, Hermione Norris and Kerry Fox as a dedicated team of medics; factual drama 37 Days about the lead up to war with Ian McDiarmid and Tim Pigott-Smith; four-part documentary Britain’s Great War; and My Great War, a film based on the unseen archive of hundreds of hours of interviews with veterans that the BBC shot in 1964. Read More »
Steve Jobs never did it but today Apple’s current boss Tim Cook made his social media presence official. Right now let’s just say Rupert Murdoch doesn’t have to worry about the executive Twitter competition. Unlike the wide ranging and often highly opinionated tweets the News Corp boss blasts out to his almost 470,000 followers, Cook, as you can see from his tweet on the left, kept it all very bland. His inaugural tweet Friday was about Apple and how proud he is of the company’s commitment to its customers. Still that didn’t prevent Cook form racking up followers. Within a couple of hours of the verified account’s first activity, Cook had over 85,000 followers on Twitter. More were joining him by the minute. Currently, the CEO himself is only following 11 people on Twitter including Job’s widow Laurene, who has yet to tweet herself, NBC’s Jimmy Fallon and CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Cook’s not the only new Twitter presence from Apple – there’s an @iTunes account that started tweeting on September 18. The newly announced iPhones and iOS Update are not yet on Twitter, but give them time.
Related: Apple’s Shares Slip After It Introduces New iPhones
In the wake of revelations of a secret recording of Rupert Murdoch addressing staff at his Sun tabloid, the UK’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport in July invited the mogul to discuss the matter at an official hearing. (The comments inlcuded Murdoch talking about his company’s handling of bribery and hacking charges at his UK newspapers.) Murdoch accepted the invitation, but no date was set at the time given the impending summer recess. Now it looks as though Murdoch’s appearance could be postponed by as much as a year. According to The Guardian, the hearing was shelved after the attorney general and Murdoch’s own lawyers intervened. With criminal trials about to begin in relation to the activities of News Corp’s UK press arm, News International (now News UK), there was a consideration on both sides that any testimony could prejudice those proceedings. Eight defendants go to trial on October 28, including former Murdoch lieutenant Rebekah Brooks. A further three trials are scheduled, with the last expected in June 2014. The Guardian says that Murdoch wrote to the committee this week saying lawyers advised him not to submit to questioning until all the criminal trials were finished. Committee chair John Whittingdale confirmed receipt of the letter and said, “At the same time, the committee received its own advice that there was a risk that any questions might prejudice the trials. … Read More »
21st Century Fox, the media and entertainment company created out of the split of News Corp, filed a definitive proxy statement with the SEC today, revealing some interesting figures. Among them is the news that chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch earned about $1.1M less in fiscal 2013 than the previous year. (The year ended on June 30 and News Corp officially split on June 28, so the figures rep his pay under the company’s former iteration.) His full fiscal 2013 compensation was $28,913,040. The previous year it was just over $30M and for 2011 it was $33.3M. (Separately, Forbes reported yesterday that Murdoch has purchased a 13-acre winery and mansion in Bel Air. Property records show that he paid $28.8M, so basically a year’s takings.) According to the SEC filing, Murdoch had 2013 stock awards of $5.2M, an increase from the $3.5M he got in 2012. His incentive plan compensation was $12.5M; changes in his pension value were worth $2.85M; and “all other compensation” equaled about $300,000. Chase Carey, deputy chairman, president and COO, had an earnings rise to $27M from 2012′s $24.7M. Scion James Murdoch, who is now deputy COO and chairman and CEO of international, also saw a pay bump to just over $17M, up from the $16.8M he made last year but less than the $17.9M he … Read More »
The CEO of 21st Century Fox opened today’s briefings in Los Angeles for Wall Street analysts who are trying to figure out where the entertainment company is headed now that it’s separate from the publishing properties at News Corp. “I believe this will be a day to remember,” Rupert Murdoch said. He acknowledges that Fox critics say its collection of traditional media movie and TV properties have peaked. He says, though, that in business — like in the movies — “many of you know that sequels can be far more lucrative than the original.” He points to opportunities overseas in markets with a growing middle class, and with new digital technologies including smartphones. “Our challenge at 21st Century Fox is to get there ahead of everyone else,” Murdoch says noting that “the value of hit content is only going to increase exponentially….A good story knows no border.” Fox execs will be “thoughtful risk takers” since “our greatest successes come from the businesses that we have built, not acquired.”
Britain’s Channel 4 News has obtained letters sent by Rupert Murdoch to two British MPs in an attempt to clarify statements he made to Sun staff that were secretly recorded in March and revealed earlier this month. In the correspondence to MPs Keith Vaz and John Whittingdale, Murdoch says he regrets his choice of words in a “highly emotional meeting”. In the original transcript, which was published by Exaro News, Murdoch says that the practice of making payments to police officers for news tips had “been going on a hundred years” and was the “culture of Fleet Street”. In the letter to Vaz (read it here), Murdoch says, “I did not intend to suggest that any violations of the law are tolerable or acceptable.” Read More »
When News Corp announced plans to divide into two distinct entities, questions remained about chief Rupert Murdoch‘s aspirations for full ownership of Britain’s BSkyB. Talking to watchers this week, an issue that arises is what effect comments Murdoch made to Sun staffers about News Corp’s handling of bribery and hacking charges could have on his interest in the pay-TV giant. One analyst tells me they don’t think that any business in which Rupert or son James Murdoch has a substantial role “will ever be allowed to buy a single more share” of the company. This person allows, however, that it’s hardly clear from the secretly-recorded tapes whether there was conspiracy to encourage misconduct in a public office, “I’d think the evidence is marginal.” Still, if any serious evidence does emerge from a Parliamentary hearing or a police investigation, most are agreed that UK regulator Ofcom could take another look at Murdoch’s relationship to BSkyB.
The phone-hacking scandal led News Corp in 2011 to withdraw a bid to acquire the 61% of BSkyB that it didn’t already hold. This was considered a blow to Murdoch who had long coveted full ownership. Analysts have held that News Corp would make another run at BSkyB in a few years’ time with the entertainment division, 21st Century Fox, putting forth a bid after the dust had settled around the publishing arm. But the dust may be kicking up again.
The secret recordings of Murdoch talking to Sun journalists, exposed last week by Exaro News, reveal him saying that the practice of making payments to police officers for news tips had “been going on a hundred years” and was the “culture of Fleet Street.” Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee yesterday invited Murdoch to appear and discuss the comments and he has accepted the invitation. The Committee itself has no real teeth (and has to be careful not to prejudice any ongoing criminal cases), but it can influence Ofcom. Read More »
UPDATE, 2:30 PM: It looks like the UK Parliament’s committee will get its wish. A News Corp spokesman has said Rupert Murdoch will accept their invitation. “Mr Murdoch welcomes the opportunity to return to the select committee and answer their questions. He looks forward to clearing up any misconceptions as soon as possible.”
PREVIOUS, 10:46 AM: The secret recording of Rupert Murdoch addressing Sun staffers at a meeting last March has incited Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee to extend an invitation to the News Corp chief. “We’re inviting him to return to give evidence,” a spokesperson tells Deadline, and “to discuss” the “supposedly secretly recorded set of comments.” Those comments included Murdoch talking about his company’s handling of bribery and hacking charges. Any evidentiary hearing before the committee would be an official one, but there’s an interesting aspect to the panel’s wording: Murdoch is being invited, not compelled, to appear. Conversely, Murdoch was indeed summoned in July 2011 when the News Of The World hacking scandal was blowing wide open. Still, if Murdoch accepts the invitation, it is unlikely he would appear anytime soon. The House of Commons is about to go into summer recess until September when it reconvenes for two weeks and then closes down again for three weeks before opening again in October. I’m told it would be a “safe assumption” that there will be no further movement until … Read More »
Audiences Fail To Embrace BBC In 3D
The BBC is suspending 3D programming after a lackluster response from viewers who found it “quite hassly,” BBC head of 3D Kim Shillinglaw said. A two-year 3D trial period started in 2011 and included the Olympics but only half of the 1.5M Britons with 3D-enabled sets watched the games that way. The Doctor Who 50th anniversary special will be one of the last programs aired in 3D in November. Shillinglaw said the broadcaster will “see what happens when the recession ends and there may be more take up of sets, but I think the BBC will be having a wait-and-see. It’s the right time for a good old pause.” ESPN in June said it was scrapping its 3D channel. Read More »
British Labour Party MP Tom Watson, a vocal and enduring Rupert Murdoch critic, has called on the News Corp boss to be questioned by police following yesterday’s revelations about a secret recording of comments he made to Sun staffers last March. Speaking to Channel 4 News, Watson said he wants to know “what are they sitting on that they’ve not given the police” and “I hope that they’re going to be interviewing Rupert Murdoch about what he did know about criminality in his organization.” Enders’ senior analyst Douglas McCabe tells me Murdoch being questioned by police or ordered before Parliament again is “just about plausible” but adds, “I don’t feel that this in isolation would be comprehensive as a trigger to make that happen.” McCabe sees Murdoch’s comments to Sun staff as being blown out of proportion. “Fundamentally, should we be surprised that privately the chair of a large media organization is trying to rally the troops and be sympatheic with different situations he acknowledges in public?” He allows, “I think one can say he shouldn’t be saying whatever he is about the UK police operation,” but “I can’t read any impact on News Corp.” News Corp yesterday said, “The unprecedented co-operation granted by News Corp was agreed unanimously by senior management and the board, and the [Management and Standards Committee] continues … Read More »
UPDATE, 4:15 PM: News Corp has just released a second statement that more directly defends Rupert Murdoch against the UK revelations today (see the Channel 4 report below). Here’s the statement: “Mr. Murdoch never knew of payments made by Sun staff to police before News Corporation disclosed that to UK Authorities. Furthermore, he never said he knew of payments. It’s absolutely false to suggest otherwise.”
PREVIOUS, 3:16 PM: “I don’t know of anybody, or anything, that did anything that wasn’t being done across Fleet Street and wasn’t the culture. And we’re being picked on,” Rupert Murdoch told journalists at UK’s The Sun in March in a secretly recorded conversation about his company’s handling of bribery and hacking charges. The recording was disclosed today with a full transcript on the website Exaro as well in a report on the UK’s Channel 4. It shows Murdoch alternately angry and sympathetic as he assured staffers that he “will do everything in my power to give you total support, even if you’re convicted and get six months or whatever. I think it’s just outrageous.” Regarding “payments for news tips from cops: that’s been going on a hundred years, absolutely. You didn’t instigate it.” He added that “the worst thing that’s going to happen is that some of you will be charged shortly, and some of you will be released shortly. And the bulk of you will be made aware after three or four months. It’s just disgraceful that they’re [the police] doing, but we’ll see.” The News Corp chief assured one staffer that the company Management and Standards Committee hasn’t “given [police] anything for months.” Later he added that the committee “has told the police…No, no, no — get a court order. Deal with that.” Read More »
Report: Rupert Murdoch, Abu Dhabi Media Group Eyeing Financial Times
A report out of Malaysia circulated this morning which claimed Rupert Murdoch and the state-owned Abu Dhabi Media Group are in talks to acquire The Financial Times Group for $1.2B. News Corp. said, “This is completely untrue” and FT owner, Pearson, also denied the report saying, “The Financial Times is not for sale, and Pearson is not in any talks to sell it.” The talks, reported by Malaysian political and business magazine The Edge Review, cited financial executives familiar with the negotiations which had purportedly been going on for the past month. The Financial Times Group includes the flagship Financial Times newspaper as well as The Economist magazine. Per AFP, the report said the Abu Dhabi group is eyeing a 75% stake with Murdoch’s new News Corp. taking 25%. News Corp. officially split into two entities today. In an interview published in the FT website on Thursday evening, chief executive of the publishing business, Robert Thomson, said News Corp. could use its $2.6B of net cash for acquisitions, but there was no mention of the FT, and he also played down expectations of a bid for the Los Angeles Times. Thomson is a former U.S. managing editor of the FT.
Judges Deny Appeals To Drop Charges Against Hacking-Scandal Figures
In other News Corp.-related news, former News International chief Rebekah Brooks, and former News Of The World editor Andy Coulson have both been denied appeals to have criminal charges against them dropped. Neither appeared in a London court Friday, but three judges there dismissed the appeal that had been brought by Brooks, Coulson and three others, The Guardian said. Brooks and Coulson’s trials begin in September, when they will face charges related to phone hacking. The appeals were fashioned on the grounds that the law does not extend to voicemails that already had been listened to. Read More »
Just ahead of News Corp.‘s official split into two entities, its UK press arm, News International, is rebranding. The company that’s parent to The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times, will henceforth be known as News UK. The new name and logo are “designed to convey a more coherent and logical identity for the new parent company across the globe,” News UK said. News International spiralled into controversy when the phone hacking scandal broke open in July 2011; the company has since shuttered tabloid News Of The World. Mike Darcey, CEO of News UK, said the company was beginning “a bright new chapter.” Referring to the scandals, Darcey said the rebrand “follows the fundamental changes of governance and personnel that have taken place to address the problems of the recent past. News International apologized to its victims and set up a compensation scheme; closed the News Of The World and co-operated with all the relevant authorities. New policies and procedures are in place across the company, its main titles are all under new leadership and the executive team has been transformed.”
EXCLUSIVE 9 AM, 4TH UPDATE 11 AM WRITETHRU (new details): News Corp Chairman/CEO Rupert Murdoch filed for divorce from wife Wendi Deng Murdoch this morning in New York State Supreme Court, Deadline learned at 9 AM. The divorce will not impact Rupert Murdoch’s mega-media holdings, according to insiders, and was deliberately announced for maximum transparency before News Corp spins off its publishing assets into a separately traded company by June 28th. (Murdoch will control both of these entities.) Wendi is perhaps most vividly and fondly remembered by the general public in July 2011 for standing up for her husband and clocking Jonathan May-Bowles after he threw a pie at Murdoch during his highly publicized British parliamentary testimony in connection with the News International phone-hacking scandal. (“Mr Murdoch, your wife has a very good left hook,” the chairman of the House Of Commons panel said admiringly. Wendi quickly earned the nickname of ‘Tiger Wife’ on Twitter.) Today’s divorce news comes despite numerous denials by PR man Steven Rubenstein and News Corp PR woman Julie Henderson to me as recently as April and May. (“We get this phone call once every 3-6 months,” Rubenstein and Henderson said at the time, pointing to the fact that Wendi and Rupert had recently hosted a dinner at their home for Oscar-winning Twentieth Century Fox director Ang Lee and were going away together on Spring Break.) But legal sources insisted to Deadline that the Murdochs’ divorce was being planned at the same time that a change in Wendi’s behavior towards Rupert was observed during the Academy Awards in February and after. ”She was snippy with him during Oscar weekend, and she’s really impatient with him these days,” a source told Deadline then. I received a call from an insider telling me, “Now I’m hearing it might be true. Call me,” On the heels of that, for the first time, not even Murdoch’s reps were denying yet another rift between Rupert and Wendi, saying to me there had been marriage trouble but stressing ”it feels like its past whatever that was.” A source who had dinner with them shortly after in NYC told me they were “fine. They’re two people who move a lot in different directions. I don’t know if it’s the marriage I’d want.” But another insider acknowledged to me, “I can’t say it might not be true that they’ll divorce. They have ups and downs. Right now it feels to me, having spent time with them, that they’re in a good place.” There is no question that despite divorce clouds Murdoch’s #1 priority was the News Corp split, not his from Wendi’s, and ”to get it done and get it done right. So he’s had a lot on his plate. What was once one is now two,” an insider explained to me at the time. “The company is so big, so diverse, so complex, and now he has to recalibrate and reaggregate these businesses while the Street determines their true value.” Today I’m told by insiders that, at that time, there were still no divorce proceedings underway so the denials were issued in good faith. “The divorce happened very quickly,” an insider told me today without details.
Media moguls routinely divorce, and Deadline doesn’t cover Hollywood’s personal lives, but this split is notable only because of its possible impact on the News Corp split or the Murdoch family succession vis a vis its corporate holdings given the patriarch’s age of 82. “I don’t see anything to indicate that shareholders have a lot at stake if Rupert and Wendi split,” one prominent media analyst tells me. “News Corp paid her $92,000 in 2010 to provide some ‘strategic advice’ regarding MySpace in China. But that’s not even pocket change, and ended three years ago, She’s not on the board, and not an executive. And since she and her kids don’t have voting rights in the family trust, she doesn’t have leverage to influence succession. I suppose that investors might become nervous if she decided to spill some News Corp secrets, or distracted Rupert so much that he’d spend less time taking care of business. But that’s thin gruel.” As for News Corp’s obligations to keep Wall Street and shareholders up to date on this kind of personal matter, “They have to report ‘material’ information on a timely basis. A lot of wiggle room there.” Read More »
UPDATE, 3:10 PM: So much for the speculation that the new News Corp — the publishing company that News Corp is about to spin off — will pounce on some papers that Tribune wants to sell, including the Los Angeles Times. Well, at least for now. Rupert Murdoch told investors and analysts today that U.S. rules designed to bar a company from owning a newspaper and TV station in the same market make a newspaper acquisition here “unlikely.” That’s sure to comfort investors who fear that Murdoch will use the new company to make deals that they’ll hate, like his $5B purchase of Dow Jones in 2007. Many investors still believe that newspaper values haven’t hit bottom. But today’s comment leaves room for him to change direction. The FCC is considering changes in media ownership rules that would make it easier to cross-own newspaper and TV properties in a city.
Related: News Corp. Board Approves Separation Of Businesses; OK’s $500M Share Buyback
Murdoch also indicated that he plans to raise The Wall Street Journal’s subscription rates, and could indirectly funnel some cash to investors. He noted that the Journal charges about $44 a month while its rival, The New York Times, charges more than $50. “There’s a dramatic difference in price,” he said adding later that “we’re looking to our readers to pay a heavier load.” What about advertising? “We’re being very realistic” by not forecasting a big increase in spending on print, he said. But execs noted that the new company plans to pay a dividend, and will set aside $500M to repurchase shares if they believe the stock is undervalued. “Ideally we’ll hold on to that money for other forms of expansion,” he says. Read More »
“Look out Facebook!” the News Corp CEO wrote today in a tweet. “Hours spent participating per member dropping seriously. First really bad sign as seen by crappy MySpace years ago.” Easy to see why he’s still smarting over the “crappy” asset that he bought in 2005 for $508M and sold two years ago for $35M. But his warning also reflects the passion Facebook inspires among supporters and critics alike on the anniversary of its ill-fated initial public offering at $38 a share. The stock closed today at $26.25 — down 31.3% — and has been pretty much flat for more than five months. Bears say that Facebook can’t sustain its torrid growth as it faces potent competitors — including Google, Twitter and Tumblr — and a shift among users from personal computers to advertising unfriendly small screened mobile phones and tablets. “Facebook is now scrambling to boost revenues through bigger ads that take over the entire screen,” BTIG’s Rich Greenfield notes today. He contrasts that to Google+, a social network that “is not out to harm the user experience through disruptive, annoying, spammy ads, they simply want the data to improve search and other products.” Read More »
News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch this morning sent this memo to staff everywhere. Again, while the parent company logo changes after the corporation splits, the film and TV studio’s 20th Century Fox name will not:
A few weeks ago I shared with you the new name for our independent media and entertainment company: 21st Century Fox.
Today I am proud to unveil our new logo, which serves as a powerful symbol of the inspiration and high bar set by our company. Like our name, the logo reflects the rich creative heritage of Twentieth Century Fox and signals the promise of the 21st century and our restless drive toward the future.
Ultimately, our new logo celebrates the powerful commitment of you and your colleagues to the excellence and innovation that will propel 21st Century Fox forward.
Click here and take a look!