I don’t know whether Rupert Murdoch was familiar with Southeastern Asset Management and its billionaire CEO O. Mason Hawkins before today — but I can assure you that he is now. The Memphis-based investment firm says in an SEC filing that it bought 11.9% of News Corp, the publishing company that Murdoch created in June with a spin off that collected his entertainment holdings at 21st Century Fox. There’s no indication in the filing about Hawkins’ plans for the 23.77M shares his firm controls. Although SAM isn’t known as an activist investor, Hawkins recently allied with Carl Icahn to oppose Michael Dell’s effort to take Dell Computers private. (Icahn this week abandoned his campaign to stop the leveraged buyout.). In a mid-year report to his investors, Hawkins said that most of the companies in which he invests and their CEOs “remain low profile because they deliver results over time.” He added, though, that when he believes new leaders would do a better job “Southeastern and their boards will hold these leaders accountable.” SAM is also a major investor in DirecTV, Scripps Networks, Tribune, and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, but early this year bailed out of Disney.
NEW YORK– News Corp (NASDAQ: NWS, NWSA; Temp. ASX tickers: NNC, NNCLV) announced today that it has sold the Dow Jones Local Media Group, which operates 33 publications, including 8 daily and 15 weekly newspapers, to an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group LLC.
The Dow Jones Local Media Group daily newspaper franchises include the Times Herald-Record (Middletown, N.Y.); Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, Mass.); The Record (Stockton, Calif.); The Standard-Times (New Bedford, Mass.); The Pocono Record (Stroudsburg, Penn.); The Herald (Portsmouth, N.H.); The Mail Tribune (Medford, Ore.), and The Daily Tidings (Ashland, Ore.). In addition to daily and weekly newspapers, the Dow Jones Local Media Group operates other print and online community media, including web sites, magazines as well as news and advertising niche publications.
Cairo-based Al Resalah is an Islamic satellite channel that is part of Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal’s Rotana Group, the media company of which News Corp owns nearly 19%. The prince said in a tweet this weekend that he has fired the channel’s general manager, Tareq al-Suwaidan, because he “admitted belonging to the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood movement.” The Brotherhood supports Egypt’s recently ousted president Mohamed Morsi and has been locked in a standoff with the military government there. Alwaleed, who is also a significant News Corp shareholder, said he had repeatedly warned al-Suwaidan about political affiliation, Reuters reported. In a statement Alwaleed said, “There is no place for those who carry any deviant thoughts at Al Resalah.” Al-Suwadain, a well-known preacher with over 1.9M Twitter followers, responded to the sacking in a tweet: “Only the weak worry about earning a living, and no one abandons his principles but he who cares about earthly matters.”
News International, the British newspaper division of News Corp which was recently renamed News UK, is being actively investigated by Scotland Yard, say reports from Reuters and The Independent. The probe is said to be seeking possible criminal violations related to the phone-hacking scandal at the now defunct News Of The World as well as allegations of illegal payments to public officials by journalists. Since 2011, police attention has appeared focused on employees of the Rupert Murdoch-controlled businesses, but The Independent says investigators are treating News International as a “corporate suspect.” Reuters, quoting a source familiar with the matter, said detectives and prosecutors are also actively considering action against News Corp as a corporation. Were corporate action to be taken, Reuters opines, it would lead to more expense for News Corp as well as potentially further tarnishing its image. If company directors or executives were held accountable, it could impact News Corp’s ownership of BSkyB since broadcast license holders have to be deemed “fit and proper.” However, BSkyB no longer has ties to the press business, having become part of the entertainment company after News Corp split into two entities. According to the reports, News Corp’s Management and Standards Committee was informed more than a year ago that action was being considered. The reports say it was this revelation that led News Corp to scale back its cooperation with …
Global Showbiz Briefs: Hrithik Roshan Back To Work After Brain Surgery; David Harewood Joins Cop Drama ‘By Any Means’; More
Hrithik Roshan Shrugs Off Brain Surgery, Returns To Work
Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan is to go back before the cameras for local Fox feature Bang Bang in mid-November. The actor underwent brain surgery to remove a blood clot last month, putting the film on hiatus, but now says he is “doubly charged and looking forward to resuming” production”. Siddharth Anand is directing the film, which also stars Katrina Kaif. “Hrithik is raring to go and his enthusiasm is infectious,” Anand said according to NDTV. The release of the film has been moved from May to October 2, 2014, to take advantage of the four-day Dussehra weekend holiday. Roshan is one of Bollywood’s hottest stars and next will be seen in Krrish 3, which bows November 4.
David Harewood Passes Up A Dance For ‘By Any Means’
Erstwhile Homeland CIA director David Harewood turned down a slot on BBC series Strictly Come Dancing last month, but he will appear in another show on the network. Life On Mars and Death In Paradise producer Red Planet Pictures is putting the finishing touches on six-part drama series By Any Means and has added a handful of well-known British guest stars for the first season. Along with Harewood, Downton Abbey‘s Amy Nuttall, Mr. Selfridge‘s Nick Moran and legendary Bond Girl Honor Blackman will all appear. The drama revolves around a clandestine police unit living on the edge and playing the criminal elite at their own game. Regular cast includes Warren Brown (Luther), Shelley Conn (Mistresses), Andrew-Lee Potts (Primeval), Gina McKee (The Borgias) and Elliot Knight (Sinbad). Belinda Campbell and Tony Jordan are exec producers for Red Planet, and Polly Hill exec produces for BBC One.
Global Showbiz Briefs: FoxCrime Launches In Africa; News Corp Seals Mobile Deals For Soccer In Asia; More
FoxCrime Channel Infiltrates South Africa
Fox International Channels announced the South African launch of its global crime and investigation entertainment network, FoxCrime. The launch adds 1.6 million subscribers to the brand’s 25 million existing global households. The South African FoxCrime schedule combines FIC original co-productions such as The Bridge with franchise acquisitions including Criminal Minds, CSI and Blue Bloods. The channel also boasts a Classic Crime block that launches with NYPD Blue, Remington Steele, CHiPs and The Streets of San Francisco and includes an African-focused slot entitled Case Files: Africa, covering infamous crime stories from across the Continent.
News Corp Secures Exclusive Mobile, Internet Soccer Rights
News Corp said Monday that it has secured exclusive mobile and Internet clip rights for England’s Barclays Premier League and several additional major leagues in Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia beginning this month. In addition, mobile and Internet rights have been secured in those territories for Bundesliga (Germany), Ligue 1 (France), Serie A (Italy), FA Cup (England), Championship (England), Capital One Cup (England), Brazilian Championship, and Major League Soccer.
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.”
News Corp announced today plans to move its entire London operations to a single location in The Place on the south bank of the Thames River. The locally based businesses and staff of News UK, Dow Jones and HarperCollins will be housed together for the first time and will begin relocating to the new site in the summer of 2014.
“Our new London location in the vibrant borough of Southwark will allow us to realize one core objective as the new News – to work more closely and creatively, and leverage our collective resources,” said Robert Thomson, Chief Executive of News Corp.
The Place resides alongside The Shard at the heart of the London Bridge Quarter, a major redevelopment surrounding one of the best-connected travel hubs in the UK. The project is an important part of the redevelopment of south London, contributing to the further regeneration of the local area, and is a significant milestone for the capital.
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.
UPDATE: News Corp Says Rupert Murdoch Accepts Invitation To Appear Before UK Parliament To Discuss Secret Tape
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 …
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 …
UPDATE: News Corp Defends Rupert Murdoch After Secret Tape Shows Him Acknowledging UK Bribery: Video
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.”
Rupert Murdoch‘s business empire started a new chapter at 4:30 PM ET. The corporate entity that used to house all of his biggest assets became 21st Century Fox. It keeps the main movie and TV properties. Murdoch, who will remain its CEO, calls Fox “a unique force” that will have “a commitment to empowering creative minds and entrepreneurs around the world” — and pay off for shareholders. His newspaper and publishing operations, and several Australian businesses, are part of a new company that inherits the News Corp name. Murdoch — who controls about 40% of the voting shares of both companies — is the chairman. The new CEO, Robert Thomson, says News Corp has “a robust balance sheet and a team of creative, energetic and passionate employees who are determined to make the company a resounding success and to make a positive difference in their communities.” Beginning on Monday, Fox’s two classes of shares will trade on NASDAQ as FOXA and FOX, while News Corp also will have two classes of shares, NWS and NWSA. In its last day of trading, the old News Corp closed at $32.58, giving the company a market value of $75.4B.
News Corp‘s soon-to-be-separated media and entertainment assets, to be known as 21st Century Fox, is adding its logo to Team Sky, the conglom’s BSkyB-sponsored pro cycling team — and just in time for the 100th Tour de France. The sport’s biggest event begins Saturday on Corsica and runs through July 21, giving Rupert Murdoch’s newly named company some serious worldwide brand awareness. It’s an interesting play: The sport is in the midst of recovering from a series of doping scandals that have engulfed even its biggest star Lance Armstrong, while News Corp has been dealing with a phone-hacking scandal of its own. Both now are working to rebuild trust with their respective audiences. News Corp splits its entertainment and publishing assets officially on Friday, and as part of the Team Sky deal announced today 21st Century Fox will become a 50-50 shareholder with founder BSkyB. Said current News Corp deputy COO James Murdoch, “It’s a great time to increase our commitment to Team Sky and to add the support of an exciting new entertainment brand.”
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.”
News Corp’s new media and entertainment spinoff company has found its voice. Julie Henderson has been upped to EVP, Chief Communications Officer, at 21st Century Fox, where she’ll oversee global communications initiatives and work to familiarize worldwide audiences with the new brand. She had been News Corp’s SVP Corporate Affairs and Chief Communications Officer. “Julie is an invaluable member of our executive team,” News Corp chief Chase Carey said, “and her work in effectively communicating our vision and corporate perspective on key issues has become even more vital as we begin a new chapter in our company’s history.”
For those into the minutae: News Corp‘s nearly separated entertainment assets to be known as 21st Century Fox are worth about $65B and the new News Corp’s publishing arm is worth about $9.1B, according to Bloomberg. That’s based on “when-issued” trading that began today on the Nasdaq that eventually will set stock prices and values for the two companies when they officially split June 28. Class A shares of 21st Century Fox finished the day at $28.35, while shares of the publishing arm (to be called News Corp) ended at $15.80. The still-trading combined News Corp stock finished up a tick at $32.34 — $11.81 less than the total of the two companies-to-be.
Fox Business Network had some business advice for Tobin Smith today: Find work elsewhere. A Fox network spokesman confirmed to Business Insider that Smiths’ contract had been terminated under the network’s contributor policy, which states that “no contributor to FBN, nor his/her firm, and/or family members are allowed to accept financial consideration of any kind whatsoever to issue research, advertisements, or to otherwise promote individual stocks or securities.” The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch reported earlier in the day that the investment manager and author, who has been a familiar face on Fox News, was in hot water over “sponsored investment research.” His NBT Equities Research collects checks to tout the stocks of small companies via such paid research, which the businesses count on to boost their share price and volume. And last week, Smith – a regular panelist on Fox News’ Bulls & Bears – sent out an email and ad flier via his new Next Big Thing newsletter touting Petrosonic Energy. The campaign came with a disclaimer saying it was paid advertising, for which NBT banked $50,000, and he did not mention Petrosonic on the air at Fox News. But some investors who bought into the company based on Smith’s recommendation contacted WSJ‘s Market Watch blog, apparently not having read the disclaimer. Market Watch alerted its News Corp sibling Fox News and was told that was the first it …
Eunice Huthart, a former body double for Angelina Jolie, has become the first person to file a phone-hacking lawsuit against News Corp. in the U.S. Huthart, a British national whose most recent credit is as stunt coordinator on Disney’s upcoming Jolie-starrer Maleficent, filed a civil complaint (read it here) against News Corp, and its UK press arm News International, in federal court on June 13 alleging right to privacy violations. Those include “intrusion into, interception of and interference with” voicemail messages left on her phone while she was working as a double for Jolie in the U.S. in 2005. The suit seeks damages for violations of federal and California laws.