I could have run the same headline almost every day this month. The media giant has been on a tear, surpassing prices that it hasn’t seen since February 2007. News Corp closed today at $27.90, up 0.4% from yesterday — and +9.4% since New Year’s Day, a period when the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 was up 5.3%. Why so much enthusiasm? Many investors are excited by the planned spin off of the newspaper properties, which usually offset profits generated by the cable networks and entertainment assets. The Street’s also intrigued to see CEO Rupert Murdoch making deals again. They liked the one in November to buy 49% of the New York Yankees’ YES Network, as well as the talk about Fox mobilizing its sports properties to create two national sports channels. With the newspaper properties going, there’s less fear that he’ll stick Fox with a deal they’ll hate — like his $5B purchase of Dow Jones in 2007. READ MORE »
Rupert Murdoch was in London last week, crowing about scoring rights to online clips of Premier League soccer matches and reportedly visiting his UK newspapers. He also held a private dinner that’s becoming a hot potato in the local media. London Mayor Boris Johnson, a rival to Prime Minister David Cameron for leadership of the Conservative Party, is widely believed to have attended along with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, whose office confirmed his presence to The Guardian. (Also reportedly there was Homeland star Damian Lewis, whose show is produced by News Corp.-owned Fox21, and who’s a graduate of Eton, as is Johnson.) While private meetings between politicians and media owners don’t run afoul of parliamentary or party rules, this particular dinner has raised eyebrows in light of last year’s Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics where an overriding theme was the cozy relationship enjoyed by newspaper proprietors and the highest levels of government.
ITV’s ‘Come Dine With Me’ Format In 36 Territories
ITV Studios Global Entertainment has signed multiple deals for its hit format Come Dine With Me including Asia’s first local version of the format to air on Indian broadcaster Star India. The network has commissioned 40 30-minute episodes. The Star India deal brings the total number of international territories producing the show to 36. Additionally, ITV Studios Nordic has been recommissioned to produce a 10th series of 60 episodes by Sweden’s TV4 and a second series of 40 episodes by Nelonen in Finland. Meanwhile, ITV Studios Australia has been recommissioned to produce a fourth (6 x 60’) series for Foxtel’s Lifestyle Channel to air in 2013. The format has also recently re-launched in Turkey on Fox TV and Belgium on Vier 4.
News Corp and Sky Deutschland have reached a new financing arrangement that will see Rupert Murdoch’s company increase its holdings in the Germany pay-TV group from 49.9% to 54.5%. Under the deal, News Corp will guarantee Sky Deutschland’s new 300M euro ($400M) credit facility and will support a capital raise of 438M euros ($585M). Sky is issuing 77.9M shares to News Corp to raise 347.4M euros ($463M) and the remainder will be raised via a Sky rights offering to shareholders. In the all-important soccer rights arena, News Corp will also act as guarantor to the German Football League for the new Bundesliga broadcasting license for the 2013/14 to 2016/17 seasons at up to 50% of the annual license fee for each season. Sky Deutschland’s stock was the best performer in the Bloomberg Europe 500 Media Index last year. It closed at 4.60 euros ($6.15) on Friday. German authorities initially gave the go-ahead back in November for News Corp to hold a majority stake in the company. Click over for the full press release:
There are some interesting nuggets for investors in what’s mostly a technical document that kicks off the process that will lead to the spinoff of News Corp‘s publishing assets into a new, publicly traded company. It’s ”another important step forward in the evolution of our company and in the establishment of two independent global leaders in Fox Group and the new News Corporation,” CEO Rupert Murdoch says. The filing notes that the assets going into the new company generated a net loss of $92M in the three months ending September 30, down from a $38M profit in the period last year, on revenues of $2.13B, -1.5%. That includes a $115M impairment charge, with $112M for newspapers following a restructuring and layoffs in the UK and Australia. The publishing company assets also lost $2.08B in the fiscal year that ended in June, down from a $678M profit, on $8.65B in revenues, -4.8%. Much of the decline is due to the closing of the scandal-ridden News Of The Worldtabloid. The spinoff will include Fox Sports Australia which, for some strange reason, News Corp says “favorably complements our publishing and education portfolio.” The document notes that UK and U.S. officials are still investigating the hacking and bribery scandals (referred to here as “U.K. Newspaper Matters”). The proceedings “could damage our reputation and might impair our ability to conduct our business.” Although the company has resolved many cases, “management believes that it is probable that additional claims will be filed.”
Editor Of Rupert Murdoch’s Times Of London Resigns, Says It Was “Made Clear” News Corp. Wanted Someone New
James Harding has run the flagship Times newspaper since 2007. In his resignation speech, Harding said, “It has been made clear to me that News Corporation would like to appoint a new editor of The Times. I have, …
The curious thing about Julius Genachowski‘s tenure as FCC chairman is that he’s been a virtuoso in dealing with broadband issues but tone deaf when it comes to traditional media. Case in point: Look at all the people he has infuriated with his attempt to make it easier for a company to own a TV station and major newspaper in the same city. (A proposal Genachowski circulated would put the burden on the FCC to show why it should block a cross-ownership arrangement in the 20 largest markets.) The effort is tailor-made for Rupert Murdoch. He’s kicking the tires at The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune — two cities where Fox also owns TV stations. That has foes of media consolidation seeing red. “We cannot live in a vibrant democracy unless people get divergent sources of information,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) said yesterday. “I intend to do everything I can to prevent this proposal from going forward.” That effort has momentum. This week Genachowski — under pressure from Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a potential swing vote on the five-member commission – said he’d accept more public comment on media ownership rules, pushing any decision into January at the earliest. Some of Genachowski’s most vigorous supporters tell me that they believe he blew it: If opponents effectively use the time to rally others to speak out against the plan, it’s probably toast.
Buried inside that News Corp press release is the announcement that its little-read and even less talked about The Daily has formally failed. The iPad-only paper launched by Rupert Murdoch with much fanfare in February 2011 and then made many layoffs this summer claiming the firings would make the “business stronger”. Nope. The Daily will publish its last iPad issue on December 15th. While dozens may lose their jobs, I’m sure it will ease their pain that The Daily’s founding Editor-In-Chief Jesse Angelo is getting a promotion thanks to cronyism. Angelo is a longtime Murdoch family friend and James Murdoch pal and now will become publisher of the New York Post. Angelo also is the son of John Angelo of NYC hedge fund Angelo Gordon & Co, which was one of Tribune Co’s biggest creditors. (Little wonder there’s speculation that Murdoch might buy the Los Angeles Times.)
Related: News Corp. Details Proposed Separation Of Businesses; The Daily To Cease
News Corp Details Proposed Separation Of Businesses; Entertainment Company To Be Called Fox Group; The Daily To Cease
News Corp. has confirmed that Dow Jones editor-in-chief and Wall Street Journal managing editor Robert Thomson will become CEO of its publishing division once the conglomerate is split into two distinct entities. Rupert Murdoch‘s company has also unveiled names for the two businesses: The publishing arm will retain the News Corporation moniker, “in keeping with the company’s 60-year heritage of bringing news to the world,” and the entertainment company will be known as Fox Group. Today’s announcement focused primarily on the publishing business and notably said that stand-alone publication of The Daily iPad app will cease on December 15. The brand will “live on in other channels,” the company said. Founding editor of The Daily, Jesse Angelo, will become publisher of The New York Post.
Other management moves include deputy editor-in-chief of the Journal, Gerard Baker, succeeding Thompson at the paper and at Dow Jones and the appointment of former MGM CFO Bedi Ajay Singh to the role of CFO of the publishing company. In London, BSkyB COO Mike Darcey will replace Tom Mockridge as CEO of News International; Mockridge announced his departure on Sunday. Below is this morning’s full News Corp press release:
NEW YORK – December 3, 2012 – News Corporation (NASDAQ: NWS, NWSA; ASX: NWS, NWSLV) today announced that Dow Jones Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor of The Wall Street Journal Robert Thomson will become the CEO of the new proposed publishing entity, following the Company’s intended separation into two independent, publicly traded companies.
In keeping with the company’s 60-year heritage of bringing news to the world, the publishing entity will retain the name News Corporation. The media and entertainment company, which began in earnest when Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch acquired 20th Century Fox and launched the Fox Network more than 25 years ago, will be named Fox Group.
As previously announced, Rupert Murdoch will serve as Chairman of the new News Corporation and Chairman and CEO of Fox Group. Chase Carey will serve as President and Chief Operating Officer of Fox Group, with James Murdoch continuing in his capacity as Deputy Chief Operating Officer. Under their collective leadership, Fox Group will continue to strengthen its creative content businesses and distribution assets, including enhancing its sports portfolio through key investments in Asia, Europe and Latin America.
The phone-hacking scandal at a News Corp-owned tabloid was the catalyst for a 16-month probe into UK media ethics, but the conglomerate is unlikely to be affected by today’s disclosure of the inquiry’s findings. “There’s nothing here I can see that changes the business prospects of News Corp”, media analyst Ken Doctor tells Deadline. Wall Street seems to agree: News Corp shares closed up 1.4% today. What’s more, CEO Rupert Murdoch escaped virtually unscathed from the Leveson Inquiry‘s report, which called for an independent, self-regulated press watchdog that can levy hefty fines. But that means nothing “if you’re deep-pocketed enough”, Doctor tells me.
Although Murdoch has lost some of his political clout in the UK, he’s becoming more politically active in the U.S. His “ability to move his power base from Britain, where he exercised great political power, to the U.S. should not be minimized,” Doctor says. For example, this month New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie felt compelled to call Murdoch when the mogul tweeted that Christie’s appearances with President Obama after Hurricane Sandy undermined GOP candidate Mitt Romney. “Christie, while thanking O, must re-declare for Romney, or take blame for next four dire years,” Murdoch wrote. Shortly afterward, The New York Times reported, Christie publicly affirmed his support for Romney. That’s why the response to the UK effort to trim the media’s sails “blows on both sides of the Atlantic, and that’s why undue press power to bully is a core question,” Doctor says.
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
The long-time rivalry between Australian media tycoons Rupert Murdoch and the Packers- Frank Packer and his son Kerry- which involved fisticuffs at one point, will be chronicled in the miniseries Power Games: The Packer-Murdoch Story. Set in the period 1960-1975, the production will detail the struggles between Murdoch and the Packers in the newspaper and television industries. “Through 15 years of political intrigue, raw corporate power and high-rolling luxury, these fierce rivals used every means at their disposal to build their empires – and ultimately came to respect and admire each other as titans on the world media stage”, according to the synopsis. Power Games is produced by Southern Star Entertainment’s John Edwards for the Nine Network, which the Packers owned until 2007.
Former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks wants her involvement in a U.S. class action suit over the phone hacking scandal dismissed. “The Complaint should be dismissed as to Brooks because Plaintiffs have failed to allege any facts to support a finding of personal jurisdiction over her,” says a motion (read it here) the ex-News Corp executive’s lawyers filed last week. Brooks, who was News International boss from September 2009 to July 15, 2011, is facing criminal charges in the UK in relation to the sprawling phone hacking scandal. A shareholder’s lawsuit launched Stateside on July 19, 2011 accuses Brooks, plus co-defendants Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Les Hinton, as having violated the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The Avon Pension Fund, Iron Workers Local Union No. 17 Pension Fund and Lewis Wilder’s class action claims that the executives concealed the “existence and extent of illegal and unethical newsgathering practices” at News International.
This week UK attention will turn back to the phone-hacking scandal as it morphs into a wider discussion about freedom of the press. On Thursday, Lord Justice Brian Leveson will unveil the long-awaited findings of his inquiry into UK media ethics and make his recommendations on how to regulate the industry. It’s expected the report will call for some form of statutory underpinning to press regulation. That has the British media girding for battle and crying foul against its rights. Independent editor Chris Blackhurst in August said Leveson was “loading a gun” against newspapers. Prime Minister David Cameron also has a challenge on his hands as he risks alienating his media allies and/or his own government based on his reaction to the findings. And, he’ll only have 24 hours to fashion a response after getting an early look at the report on Wednesday. Cameron’s press office on Sunday said the PM remained “open-minded.”
It was Cameron who convened the inquiry in July 2011 as the phone-hacking scandal blew wide open at Rupert Murdoch’s News Of The World tabloid. During its run, the probe heard evidence from more than 150 witnesses including Murdoch, Tony Blair, Hugh Grant, J.K. Rowling, the Dowler family and Cameron himself who in June faced uncomfortable questioning about his relationship to former Murdoch lieutenant Rebekah Brooks. He recently told the BBC’s Andrew Marr he would “absolutely” abide by Leveson’s suggestions on regulation as long as they were reasonable. “The status quo is not an option,” he said. Deputy PM Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband are expected to back Leveson’s proposals, but some members of Cameron’s own Conservative party are leaning towards non-statutory regulation, including London mayor Boris Johnson. At the same time, there is a group of Conservative MPs who want radical reform, The Guardian has noted.
Should he support statutory regulation, Cameron will risk alienating members of the media who are already unhappy that a light has been shone so brightly on their underbelly by an inquiry that he ordered. In April, Rupert Murdoch told the Leveson Inquiry, “When it comes to regulation, I just beg for some care. A varied press guarantees democracy.” But some papers who have not been accused of wrongdoing are likely to be caught in the crossfire.