Rupert Murdoch mulls new merger of Fox Corp, News Corp

Rupert Murdoch finalized his divorce from fourth wife Jerry Hall in August. But the two halves of his business empire are considering a merger.

News Corp., which owns publishing titles including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and the London-based tabloid Sun, and Fox Corp., which includes Fox News and Fox Sports, said Friday night they were exploring a possible merger at the behest of Murdoch and the trust of his family.

The two companies said they each formed a special committee to consider the proposal.

The Murdoch Family Trust owns about 40 percent of the voting shares in both News Corp and Fox Corp — and any combination would mean something of a corporate reunion.

The two entities shared a common governance structure until a split in 2013 in response to a major scandal that rocked some of Murdoch’s London newspapers. Revelations that their journalists had hacked into the voicemails of celebrities and other tabloids prompted a clashing criminal, civil and government inquiry that uncovered systemic corruption in Britain’s tabloid industry – a potential threat to Murdoch’s empire.

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At the time, Murdoch described the split as a move that would “allow each company and its division to realize their full potential — and unlock even greater long-term shareholder value.”

But it was accompanied by a certain Murdoch family drama. Rupert Murdoch’s younger son, James, left his role as CEO of their European and Asian businesses – including London tabloids. He eventually became CEO of the entertainment company 21st Century Fox. Eventually, however, he clashed over business strategy with his older brother, Lachlan, who had been appointed executive co-chairman of the company.

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Eventually, her father decided to remove the company he had spent his life building from their mutual dispute.

In 2019, the Murdochs completed a $71.3 billion sale of most of 21st Century Fox — which also included the FX cable network, the Fox Searchlight label and National Geographic properties — to Disney.

While James Murdoch left his senior positions with the sale, Lachlan chose to stay and run the parts of the company that remained under Murdoch’s control, including Fox News, Fox TV Stations and Fox Sports. In the summer of 2020, James left the family business entirely, admitting “disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions” — a statement believed to be his comment on Fox News’ increasingly conservative stance .

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Lachlan Murdoch told Fox investors in 2019 that the family had no plans to merge the companies, but Rupert Murdoch raised the possibility of reuniting them in recent weeks, according to people who spoke to him directly and asked not to be identified to have private conversations.

The eldest Murdoch told these people he believes a merger will give the combined companies a greater ability to negotiate and do business with giants like Netflix, Amazon and Disney.

In its announcement, News Corp. said that the Special Committee “has not made a decision regarding such a potential combination at this time and there can be no assurance that the Company will enter into such a transaction.” Both companies said they would not comment further.

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