After 53 years building News Corp, Rupert Murdoch has become acutely aware of the news cycle and has plenty of form in cynically timing announcements to minimise coverage.

The resignation of Lachlan Murdoch in 2005 came through at 9pm on a Friday night in Australia and then there was the famous release of an extraordinarily generous equity incentive proposal late on the middle Friday of the Sydney Olympics.

We’ve seen another classic effort from Rupert over the silly season when this 118-page document outlining the $11 billion peace deal with John Malone’s Liberty Media was dropped on December 27.

News first broke news of the deal on December 22, but the detail was still a little sketchy and it was heavily spun in this press release.

It wasn’t until 5 days later that the detail arrived, without any fanfare at the SEC. And most media have ignored the outrageous element of the deal that Liberty Media will be paid a $US100 million break fee even if it is voted down by the independent shareholders.

Rupert Murdoch is being totally driven by his desire for unfettered control of News Corp and has even been prepared to surrender the key asset of DirecTV to secure Malone’s departure in what amounts to one of the world’s biggest buy backs.

Some shareholders might think that Rupert is surrendering too much of the company’s assets for personal gain, yet if they vote against the deal it will cost them $US100 million.

There is a $US300 million break fee if the board changes its recommendation or does a deal with someone else and this is more acceptable. However, having any break fee if the minority shareholders reject a massive related party transaction between a couple of old media warhorses is utterly inappropriate.

That said, News Corp shares are up another 53c to a four-year high of $29.51 this morning so there doesn’t appear to be too much concern that Rupert has done a bad deal.

At the very least it would be nice to have some decent analysis of what all this means, but the enormity of this deal has been lost in the silly season torpor.

Peter Fray

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