Rupert Murdoch is all over Twitter. (“My family are horrified that I’m on it,” he says.) But in agreeing to sit down for a broad interview with Fortune, one of the media industry’s most powerful moguls signals that he’s finally ready to return in a serious way to the public stage that he has largely abandoned as he grappled with his UK hacking scandals and a bitter divorce, as well as uncertainty about the prospects for his media empire — which he split into two companies last year — and his succession plans. You should check out the piece by senior editor-at-large Pattie Sellers. Here are a few of the highlights:
Related: Rupert Murdoch Says There May Be Multiple ‘Avatar’ Sequels: Fortune
Succession: His sons James and Lachlan are first in line to take over although “I’m going to be here for a long time. And so will [Fox COO] Chase Carey and [News Corp CEO] Robert Thomson.” The effort to bring Lachlan back intensified after a private meeting with James at last year’s Allen & Co confab in Sun Valley. “We had two or three hours together. Lachlan was not not going to come back. It was a question of how we would work together.”
Related: Lachlan And James Murdoch Given Big New Roles At News Corp
Daughter Liz Murdoch’s decision not to join the News Corp board: Rupert says he’d “rather not go into that.” A lot of close families “have good arguments. That doesn’t mean they don’t love each other.” And it’s “more than possible” that she’ll return to the family business.
Who’ll be the GOP’s 2016 presidential candidate: Murdoch says former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is “my number one” calling him “a man of very fine character.” He also has “particular admiration” for Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie “could recover” from inquiries into his possible role in manufactured traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge. Murdoch agrees with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on “a great number of things” but disagrees on foreign policy “too strongly perhaps to vote for him.”
His view of Hillary Clinton: He left open the possibility of supporting her but “it would depend on the Republican candidate totally.” He adds that he “could live with Hillary as President. We have to live with who we get. We don’t have any choice.” Read More »
UPDATE: Below the original post is a copy of Rupert Murdoch’s memo to staff at 21st Century Fox regarding today’s appointments. In it, he notes that the evolution of the company’s leadership, “underscores the considerable planning that both the Company and the Board have undertaken to ensure a vibrant future for 21st Century Fox and its shareholders.”
PREVIOUS: In what looks like a clear sign that Rupert Murdoch is putting his succession plans in order, News Corp and 21st Century Fox made big announcements early Wednesday morning outlining changes to their boards and executive structure — and each involving Murdoch’s sons. Lachlan Murdoch has been named Non-Executive Co-Chairman of News Corp and has been given the same title at 21st Century Fox, the media and entertainment company. Also at 21st Century Fox, James Murdoch has been elevated to Co-Chief Operating Officer. Further, Fox Networks Group Chairman and CEO Peter Rice, who has close ties to the Murdoch family, has extended his contract for an unspecified term. “Under Peter Rice’s leadership Fox Networks Group has continued to push creative boundaries across the company, and has grown tremendously with successful channel launches including Fox Sports 1 and FXX, an increased international footprint and enhanced sports offerings across the world,” James Murdoch said.
The … Read More »
Looks that way based on his response to a question put to him in Australia about his possible interest in returning to the executive suites of News Corp — soon to be split into separate companies for the publishing and entertainment assets. “No, no. I’ve moved on from that,” Murdoch, 41, is quoted as telling the Australian Financial Review. He’ll still have a hand in company affairs. Rupert Murdoch’s son will sit on the boards of the new News Corp. (the publishing company) and 21st Century Fox (the entertainment one). If anything, the change could increase his power in Australia. The new News Corp will be loaded with local newspaper and pay TV assets — and Lachlan is still Non-Executive Chairman of TV broadcaster Ten Network Holdings, and controls FM radio company DMG Radio Australia. Following the split, “It will be the first time in decades an Australian media baron has played such a dominant role in the Australian media,” commentator Glenn Dyer says at the country’s independent news site Crikey.com.
Prince And Princesses Denounce ‘Grace Of Monaco’
Monaco’s Prince Albert and his sisters Princesses Caroline and Stephanie criticized as glamorized fiction the screenplay for the movie starring Nicole Kidman as their mother, former Hollywood actress Grace Kelly. A statement released by the royal palace of Monaco charged that Grace of Monaco contained “historical untruths” and some “purely fictional” parts. Their statement was intended to debunk a story in the magazine Paris Match that said the Monaco royals had been reassured by producers about the credibility of director Olivier Dahan’s project. “Their Highnesses were quite surprised when they received the script,” said the statement emailed to Reuters. “The Palace had submitted many requests for changes to the producers of the film, not all of which were taken into consideration.” The statement added, “Consequently, the Princely family wishes to emphasize that this film is by no means a biopic”.
Marion Cotillard To Be Feted At Harvard
Oscar winning French actress Marion Cotillard has been named Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals’ woman of the year. Cotillard won her Best Actress Academy Award for 2007’s La Vie En Rose and last year won accolades for her role in Jacques Audiard’s Rust And Bone. She will be feted with a parade and a roast and given her ceremonial pudding pot at Harvard on January 31. She’s the first French actress to receive the honor. Read More »
Time Warner Cable To Sell Its Stake In Clearwire
Time Warner Cable plans to sell its 46.4 million shares of Clearwire to build a nationwide high-speed wireless Internet network, Bloomberg reports. The second-largest U.S. cable company alerted other Clearwire investors of its intention to sell the holdings in a filing last week. Time Warner Cable and Comcast agreed late last year to market and sell Verizon Wireless, allowing the cable companies to combine wireless service with their television, land-line phone and broadband Internet services. The U.S. Justice Department approved the Verizon deal last month. Clearwire fell 4.9 percent to $1.54 at the close in New York. Read More »
Lachlan Murdoch Sues Fairfax Media For Defamation
Lachlan Murdoch is suing Australia’s Fairfax Media, alleging he was defamed in a September 6 article in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age which claimed he spent $304,000 of time travelling in News Corp’s corporate jet in the past year. Murdoch is a director of News as well as non-executive chairman of the struggling Network Ten. The article said, “Lachlan has…been flying high, in direct contradistinction to the ratings of the Ten Network.” The suit filed this week in the NSW Supreme Court said the article was based on News’ annual report which referred only to his brother James’ use of the jet. “The error is not such that a journalist, no matter how incompetent, could have made,” reads the claim. “Thus, it will be inferred that the defendant chose deliberately to state that it was Lachlan Murdoch, rather than his brother, knowing that statement was false or reckless.” The News-owned Australian reported Lachlan had not used the jet for seven years. The Fairfax papers tried to limit the damage by publishing a correction and apologizing for suggesting Lachlan used his position for personal benefit. Lachlan is seeking a full apology and $A50,000 ($52,280) to be paid to charity. The Australian said both sides were in negotiations. – Don Groves
Restored ‘Scarecrow’ Opens Lumière Fest
The Lumière Festival was launched four years ago by Cannes Film Festival chief Thierry Frémaux who is also head of the Lumière Institute in Lyon. The open-to-the-public festival largely shows retrospectives and restorations but draws a substantial crowd of global filmmaking talent. Clint Eastwood, Milos Forman, Gérard Depardieu and Stanley Donen have stopped by in the past. Jerry Schatzberg’s 1973 Palme d’Or winner Scarecrow will open the proceedings this year on October 15 (last year it was The Artist). A new, restored copy of the film will be screened with the director on hand, accompanied by Frémaux and his co-hort at the festival Bertrand Tavernier. Schatzberg’s filmography includes Puzzle Of A Downfall Child and The Panic In Needle Park. Increasingly crossover director and actor Guillaume Canet, who worked with Schatzberg on The Day the Ponies Come Back, will present Read More »
UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt To Be Ousted?
UPDATE: David Cameron has named Jeremy Hunt to the post of Health Secretary. Hunt told the BBC, “It’s a huge task. It’s the biggest privilege of my life. I’m incredibly honored.”
PREVIOUS: Jeremy Hunt may be on his way out as part of Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle. Hunt fell under scrutiny a few months ago for what some considered a too-cozy relationship with the office of James Murdoch during News Corp.’s bid to acquire the whole of BSkyB. Hunt, whose official title is Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport, expects to lose his post, sources tell The Guardian, although he recently oversaw what was considered a successful London Olympic Games. According to The Guardian, speculation is that he will make a lateral move to the Department for International Development. One name that’s popped up as a possible replacement should Hunt change jobs is Communications Minister Ed Vaizey.
Sky Revamps Acquisitions Team
Sky has promoted controller of acquisitions for Sky Entertainment, Sarah Wright, to controller of acquisitions for Sky, adding acquisitions for Sky Movies to her responsibilities. She replaces Simon Rexworthy, who will join Sky’s Strategy team from October. Wright was involved in the launch of Sky Atlantic and oversaw the acquisitions strategy for the re-launches of Sky Living and Sky Arts. Read More »
‘Everybody Dance Now’ Stumbles But Murdochs Keep Music Playing
Everybody Dance Now, a new Australian series hosted by Lachlan Murdoch’s wife Sarah Murdoch and featuring American “dance masters” Kelly Rowland and Jason Derülo, has stumbled badly on Network Ten, whose chairman is … Lachlan Murdoch. The Sunday night premiere averaged just 598,000 viewers against Nine’s debuting Big Brother and local crime series Underbelly: Badness. The audience dropped to 304,000 for the second episode on Monday night. Ten insists it’s sticking with the show produced by FremantleMedia Australia, although it’s been cut back to one hour on Sunday nights from three hours over two nights. Offering more than $A450,000 ($472,000) in prizes, the show aims to find the most entertaining dance act in Oz. - Don Groves
Alan Partridge Returns To UK TV Ahead Of Big Screen Debut
Funnyman Steve Coogan is bringing his signature character, Alan Partridge, back to UK television audiences next year via Sky Atlantic. The show, Mid Morning Matters 2, follows a first series that was aired on Sky Atlantic this year. It sees the hapless, politically incorrect radio presenter working at a shabby radio station in North Norfolk, England. Filming has begun on the series that’s produced by Coogan and Veep’s Armando Iannucci along with Baby Cow chief exec Henry Normal. There’s an Alan Partridge feature in the works that starts shooting in January for an August 16, 2013 UK release which StudioCanal is handling. Coogan and Iannucci penned that script with frequent Sacha Baron Cohen collaborator Peter Baynham and Neil and Rob Gibbons. Declan Lowney is directing. Read More »
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney
If Lachlan Murdoch harbors hopes of a return to a senior executive role at News Corp, his stewardship of Australia’s Network Ten may not be helping his cause. The half-year ratings released Monday show the combined audience shares for Ten’s three networks — flagship Ten and digital channels One and Eleven — fell to 19.9%, down from 21.9% in first-half 2011 and deeper into third place in the market behind leader Seven (30.4%) and Nine (27.9%). Since Rupert Murdoch‘s scion took the reins of the network in late 2010 (initially as interim chief executive, then as executive chairman), the value of his 9% stake acquired for $A128 million has plummeted by 47%. And that was before he coughed up a further $35.7 million in June when Ten raised $200 million by issuing new shares.
Related: It’s “Highly Unlikely” Lachlan Murdoch Will Run News Corp Publishing, Rupert Says
When News Corp splits into separate entertainment and publishing companies next year, one Australian media analyst expects Lachlan to take a seat on the board of the publishing unit, which will include News’ stakes in dominant Australian pay-TV platform Foxtel, Fox Sports and realestate.com.au. The analyst, who asked not to be identified, said, “I think Rupert will want Lachlan to be his eyes and ears on the ground here. Lachlan is a director of News Corp but apart from his time as acting CEO of Ten he has operated more at board level.” Another analyst also doubts Lachlan plans to return to the News Corp executive fold, suggesting his first priority is to “rejuvenate” Ten. Given his investments in Ten, the DMG Australia radio network and Funtastic Australia (a distributor of toys, sporting and confectionery products), it’s difficult to see how he could juggle that and an operational role at News. Also, Lachlan, who is 40, and his family are happily ensconced in Sydney, which probably rules out any move to New York for the foreseeable future.
Related: News Corp Scandal One Year Later: Where Does The Publishing Arm Go From Here? Read More »
The News Corp CEO just said in an interview on Fox News that his son is happy running his businesses in Australia. And there’s no decision yet about whether Rupert’s other kids — including James and Elisabeth Murdoch — might play bigger roles once the media giant is divided into an entertainment company and a publishing one. “They have to earn it, and they have to want it,” Rupert says. He also told interviewer Neil Cavuto that he’s no longer interested in BSkyB. “We’ve moved on in our thinking….I’m much more bullish about America.” Europe is in for “a tough, long haul” and possibly a recession, while “we’ve got things to be very bullish about in this country.” No, he isn’t tacitly endorsing President Obama. “I’m taking a medium and long term view” of the economy. Indeed, he says that the presidential election might not have a big impact on News Corp although “if taxes go up, we’ll have less cash. If that happens, the economy will go down.”
Related: News Corp Officially Announces Plan For Business Split Read More »
Freelance journalist Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney
In a sign of the malaise affecting the Australian free-to-air TV broadcasters, Network Ten is raising $A200 million in a share offer to invest in new Australian programming and strengthen its balance sheet. The company headed by executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch has been hit by a sharp downturn in ratings and advertising revenue. That’s due in part to the soaring popularity of rival Nine Network’s local version of The Voice, and amid a sluggish economy and consumers’ fears about the impact of the European financial crisis. Ten said TV revenue for the nine months ending in May was down 12% year-over-year and advertising markets “continue to be soft with very little near-term visibility on revenue for July and August.” Murdoch, who with James Packer, former Paramount International TV president Bruce Gordon and mining tycoon Gina Rinehart own 43% of Ten’s shares, said the network is due to repay $US125 million in debt in March 2013. Revenue for Australia’s free-to-air broadcasters fell by 4.4% to $2.06 billion in the last half of 2011, and analysts say the overall market is down by 2%-3% so far this year.
Freelance journalist Don Groves is a Deadline contributor, based in Sydney.
Another day, another media controversy for the Murdoch clan. Rupert Murdoch’s eldest son Lachlan has been accused of a possible breach of Australian broadcasting laws. Avaaz, a New York-based global campaign organization that boasts more than 14 million members, today called on the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to launch an investigation into Lachlan’s Australian media holdings. Avaaz claims more than 300,000 members in Australia. It wants ACMA to determine whether the Murdoch scion is in a position to exercise control of News Corp.’s Australian arm News Limited, as he is a director of News Corp. The group contends that it would create an “unacceptable three way control situation” in breach of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which forbids anyone from controlling a commercial radio licence, a commercial TV licence, and a newspaper in the same licence area (in this case, Sydney). Murdoch is the chairman and a major shareholder in Network Ten and in the DMG Radio Australia network. News Limited controls 70% of Australia’s newspapers including the Sydney Daily Telegraph and the national broadsheet The Australian and owns 25% of the dominant pay-TV provider Foxtel.
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BSkyB investors are set to vote Tuesday on whether to keep James Murdoch at the helm — and while reports of increased opposition have surfaced, speculation is that he’ll maintain his post as chairman. Elsewhere, James’ brother Lachlan Murdoch has denied claims he was present during crucial moments of a 1998 lunch where a News Corp-related bribery offer is alleged to have taken place.
On Thursday, British Labour Party MP Tom Watson tweeted a heads-up that U.S.-based BSkyB investors Christian Brothers Investment Services, The California State Teachers Retirement System and the Florida State Board of Administration had indicated they would vote against keeping James Murdoch as chairman. Legal and General is also said aiming to kibosh his tenure, though its position is believed to be related to the question of Murdoch’s independence from News Corp rather than anything to do with the phone-hacking scandal at News International.
The BSkyB board has said it will back Murdoch, and The Financial Times indicates that at least half of the top 15 investors will support him. According to The Telegraph, a vote against Murdoch of under 20% would be “survivable” and it’s expected that just about 10%-20% of the vote will be for his ouster at the annual general meeting Tuesday. Read More »
Rupert Murdoch’s children saw a family counseling psychologist as recently as this past February to help them sort through their feelings about who should succeed their father as CEO of News Corp, Vanity Fair contributing editor Sarah Ellison reports in the magazine’s December issue. They agreed that James, who’s Deputy COO, should be first in line. But their opinions changed after the News Of The World phone-hacking scandal broke open in July. Elisabeth Murdoch, at Rupert’s suggestion, urged James to step aside before he testified that month at a UK Parliamentary hearing. Rupert changed his mind after a sleepless night. As talk grew about a possible arrest and jail time, Ellison reveals that Rupert’s estranged second wife Anna flew to London and urged her ex-husband to publicly back his son.
As for the NOTW case itself, Ellison supports an important claim by two of James’ chief opponents – ex-News International executives Tom Crone and Colin Myler — over whether they told him in 2008 that the scandal was broader than the company had acknowledged. Murdoch, who oversaw News International, says he believed that the lawbreaking was limited to a single “rogue” reporter as he authorized a $1.4M settlement with a hacking victim on the condition that he keep quiet about the matter. But Crone and Myler say Murdoch knew about an email in the case that showed a second reporter had been involved — suggesting that Murdoch’s settlement was a form of hush money. Murdoch … Read More »
OK, so based on the makeup of News Corp’s voting shares — they are 40% controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his family, as well as 7% by ally Prince Alwaleed bin Talal — there was no way any of the Murdochs were in danger of being kicked off the board of directors during a vote at last week’s shareholders meeting. But the results, which News Corp made official in SEC documents today, are striking anyway as they show the huge number of company investors who are against Rupert and his sons James and Lachlan. In all, 433,028,510 votes (in shares) were in favor of James Murdoch’s re-election to the board, while 232,013,203 were against, giving the executive and focal point of News Corp’s hacking scandal in the UK the most “no” votes of any of the 15 board members. For Lachlan Murdoch, it was 440,906,956 for and 224,151,616 against, and for Rupert it was 561,685,725-91,798,107. Other board members also had higher-than-normal votes against. The question is, will the optics of so much dissent in the ranks make Rupert acknowledge that there is a problem, and then will he do something to address that problem? The smart money is on no way. Read More »
Things could be interesting in Los Angeles on Oct. 21 when News Corp holds its annual shareholders meeting. Advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services recommended today that stock owners reject 13 of News Corp’s 15 board members, including the three Murdochs: Rupert and his sons James and Lachlan. Joel Klein, who runs News Corp’s Education Division, and Accel Partners’ James Breyer were the only nominees deemed acceptable by ISS. The firm says that while the News Of The World phone-hacking scandal ”is perhaps the most visible and severe example of the failure of board stewardship, it is part of a mosaic of failures of board independence, oversight, and responsiveness to shareholder concerns stretching back at least to 2004, when the company reincorporated from Australia to Delaware.” The report probably won’t affect the outcome of the shareholder vote: Due to News Corp’s dual stock arrangement, the Murdoch family controls about 40% of the voting shares even though it owns just 12% of the equity. Rupert’s ally, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, controls an additional 7% of the votes.
News Corporation says that it “strongly disagrees” with ISS’ recommendations because the “disproportionate focus” on the scandal is “a disservice to our stockholders.” The company adds that ISS “failed to consider that the Company’s compensation practices reflect its robust performance in FY 2011 driven by its broad, diverse group of businesses across the globe.” Read More »
With independent board members privately rebelling and institutional investors publicly complaining about inadequate corporate governance in the wake of the UK phone-hacking scandal, News Corp’s board of directors is scheduled to meet Tuesday in Los Angeles ahead of the company’s fiscal year-end earnings release the next day. Now the media giant’s Wall Street Journal is reporting that Elisabeth Murdoch and the media giant have shelved plans for her to join the board for now. The 42-year-old daughter of News Corp Chairman/CEO Rupert Murdoch was expected to join the board as part of her return to the company through News Corp’s acquisition of the Shine Group, the television-production company she runs. Rupert had even said in a news release in February that he expected her to join the board when the £415 million ($680 million) Shine acquisition was completed in April. News Corp independent director Viet Dinh said in a statement Friday that Elisabeth ”felt it would be inappropriate” to join the company board at its annual meeting later this year and the company’s independent directors agreed. Read More »