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.
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.
This is a shift for Institutional Shareholder Services, and a recommendation that it has to know is doomed to fail. The investor advisory firm endorsed all of the board candidates last year when Rupert Murdoch‘s entertainment and publishing properties were combined at News Corp. But ISS is upset that the mogul adopted an anti-takeover plan called a poison pill in June when he split his assets between two companies: 21st Century Fox for entertainment, and News Corp for publishing. ISS now wants Fox shareholders to oppose Murdoch, his sons James and Lachlan, COO Chase Carey, and five Murdoch allies when they’re up for election to the board at Fox’s first annual meeting on October 18. In addition, the firm wants shareholders to support a resolution calling for an independent board chairman — Rupert is CEO and chairman — and to end the two-tier stock system that enables the Murdoch family to control 39.4% of the votes even though it owns just 14% of the all shares.
This is a complicated annual exercise for 21st Century Fox — and its predecessor, News Corp — as it tries to comply with U.S. laws that bar a company from owning TV station licenses if non-citizens control more than 25% of its total voting shares. …
Bill Gates‘ net worth of $72B enabled him to claim the top spot on the Forbes tally for the 20th consecutive year — followed by Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett ($58.5B), Oracle’s Larry Ellison ($41B), and then Koch Industries’ Charles and David Koch ($36B). While Buffett fattened his holdings the most over the last year, adding $12.5B, the recovery in Facebook’s stock helped to boost Mark Zuckerberg‘s net worth by $9.6B to $19B lifting him 16 spots to No. 20. Once again, the list is heavy with names from the tech world — but at least 28 media execs had a net worth of at least $1.3B, the highest amount needed to qualify for the top 400 since 2008. Bloomberg LP founder Michael Bloomberg, who also happens to be mayor of New York, had $31B, putting him in 10th place, same as last year. Cox Communications’ Anne Cox Chambers, with $13.5B, was 29th (+3 on the list), narrowly beating Rupert Murdoch and family $13.4B (at No. 30, +6). Dish Network’s Charlie Ergen follows at $12.5B (No. 32, +7). Advance Publications’ Samuel Newhouse had $8.9B (No. 46, same as last year) ahead of brother Donald’s $8.2B (No. 52, -1). There’s a tie at No. 61 with the $6.7B net worth for Cox Enterprise’s Jim Kennedy (same rank as last year) and Liberty Media’s John Malone (he’s -4 spots on the list). Other media names include:
Global Showbiz Briefs: Multiple Deals For Nicolas Cage Drama ‘Joe’; Vodafone OKd For $10.2B Kabel Deutschland Buyout; More
WestEnd Films Seals Multiple Deals For Nicolas Cage Drama ‘Joe’
International sales company WestEnd Films has closed a raft of deals on David Gordon Green’s drama Joe, starring Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan. The film debuted in Venice, where Sheridan won the best newcomer prize. The Worldview Entertainment-produced and -financed film then appeared in Toronto, where deals were sealed with Japan (CCC), Australia (Madman), Benelux (Cinéart) and Scandinavia (Non Stop). Artificial Eye picked it up in the UK, and the film had previously sold to 15 territories include France (Wild Side), Germany (Koch Media), Latin America (Swen), China (Media Asia), Israel (United King), and Greece (Spentzos Films). CAA is repping the North America rights, with Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions and Magnolia Pictures being the front-runners as of Friday.
Vodafone Set To Acquire Germany’s Kabel Deutschland For $10.2B
Shareholders of Kabel Deutschland — Germany’s largest cable company — voted Friday to accept Vodafone’s buyout offer of €87 ($115.70) a share, which includes a €2.50 dividend payment. Vodafone, Germany’s top mobile network with 32 million subscribers, said the required 75% minimum of Kabel investors had been met. The deal, which gives Vodafone 7.6 million cable subs, continues its strategy of offsetting declining revenue by selling mobile phone subscriptions alongside TV, landline and broadband services. Reuters reported Friday that three hedge funds that tendered shares enabling Vodafone’s successful Kabel bid plan to sue for a better price for their outstanding holdings.
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 …
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. …
Listen to (and share) the first episode of Deadline’s audio podcast “Global Showbiz Watch, with Nancy Tartaglione.” Deadline’s international editor talks with host David Bloom about Rupert Murdoch’s latest backpedal over the …
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.”
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.