It has been many years since Rupert Murdoch spent ten days in Australia,
which raises the question: why is spending so long away from
News Corp’s head office and the family in New York?
Some of his activity in Australia is known, such as the 75 minute
earnings conference call from Sydney last Friday, yesterday’s sculpture award with his mother in Melbourne and
this Wednesday’s shareholder information meeting in Adelaide, but what else is he
doing here? Having watched the Sun King for years, here is a punt on
the people he’s been meeting and the things he has been doing:
The Packers: Relations seem to be pretty good at the moment but
with changes to media ownership laws and the C7 case, there would have
been plenty to discuss with both Kerry and James in Sydney last week.
Helen Coonan and John Howard: Whilst Rupert caught up with
John Howard in Washington two months ago, the ongoing media ownership
law debate would be a high priority during this trip as the government
fine tunes its policy.
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C7 Case: This would possibly have taken up more time than
anything else during his visit. Noel Hutley SC and key executives like
Ian Philip, will have briefed Rupert extensively on tactics and the
outlook after Justice Ronald Sackville ordered the parties to go away
for a week
and consider settling the most expensive corporate dispute in
Lachlan: While Rupert saw Lachlan at the AGM in New York
last month, it was a good chance to also catch up with Sarah and baby
Kalan, who turned one on November 9. Kalan would have a special place
in Rupert’s heart as he is the only grandson carrying the Murdoch name
into the future.
Mum: plenty of quality time was spent with Dame Elisabeth during the only weekend of the ten day visit.
The Macleods: Rupert’s daughter from his first marriage,
Prudence, relocated from London to Sydney a couple of years ago and her
husband, Alasdair Macleod, is running the Sydney suburbans and
represents News Ltd on the realestate.com.au board. Therefore, it would have
been a good chance to catch up with business and family, including
their three children, James, Angus and Clementine who range between 9 and 14 and are included in the inheritance.
Sol Trujillo: The new Telstra CEO would also be a high priority
given the Foxtel shareholding and Telstra’s plan to embrace broadband
television directly down the track, thereby possibly undermining Foxtel.
Morris Iemma: The new NSW Premier and Treasurer would be high on
the list, especially after his Government turned a blind eye to
Rupert’s Bermuda tax dodging which cost NSW taxpayers up to $50 million.
David Pemberthy: the new editor of The Daily Telegraph was very much backed by Lachlan, so Rupert would have been keen to go through his paper and get a feel for his talents.
Piers Akerman: one of Rupert’s oldest friends in Australia usually
gets a good airing, and occasionally a sail on the harbour, with his
ever loyal boss.
Peter Costello: this is a smokey but the Sun King might not
be back before a challenge from the Treasurer and backing from
Australia’s most powerful mogul would be important. Costello is
notoriously close to James Packer and the Sun King would also be
annoyed that he never got the tip from Costello about John Malone’s
attempts to buy more News Corp shares more than two years ago.
Simon Pristel: Whilst all editors and publishers in Melbourne,
Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide would be likely to get an airing during
such a long visit, new appointments are usually higher on the priority
list so the new Sunday Herald Sun editor is probably having a meeting
with the Sun King today.
Realestate.com.au takeover: Securing final board agreement for the News
Ltd takeover is another obvious for the Sun King to resolve whilst
here. The original $2 a share offer was lifted to $2.50 but still the
independents are holding out.
Internet update: Plenty of time would have been devoted to briefings on
the progress of various News Ltd arms on their embrace of the internet.
If anyone has insights into other meetings that Rupert is having during his visit, email it through to [email protected]