The Australian media have failed to cover the detail of Rupert Murdoch’s $15 billion peace deal with John Malone in which News Corp is handing over control of the US satellite TV giant DirecTV in return for Liberty Media quitting the News Corp share register.

For instance, a 67 page independent experts report from Grant Samuel has made a late entry on the scene but it’s as if it didn’t happen. The release of information has been as follows:

December 22: glowing one page press release on the deal.
December 27: full agreement released to ASX.
February 12: draft documentation for shareholders released including supportive reports from Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.
March 1: full shareholder documentation released with an additional Grant Samuel report for the Australian shareholders.

Each of the different reports are newsworthy only the one page press release attracted coverage, even though News Corp is coming back into the Australian index and still has more than $10 billion worth of shares held by Australian investors.

The selection of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan was unfortunate because they are the two global investment banks that have direct relationships with supposedly independent News Corp directors – John Thornton and Rod Eddington respectively.

The physical documentation that was sent to Australian shareholders contains 10 pages from Goldman Sachs (fee $US20 million), 13 pages from JP Morgan (fee $US5 million) and 67 pages from Grant Samuel with no fee disclosed.

This Grant Samuel report states the following quite boldly on page 3: “Based on recent market prices of News Corp shares and DIRECTV shares, the value exchange has slightly favoured Liberty.”

The best way to assess this is by looking at the DirecTV, News Corp and Liberty Media share price graphs over the past three months.

DirecTV initially weakened from $US25 to $US22 in the two months after the deal was announced but now recovered to $US22.87. News Corp and Liberty both rose strongly immediately after the deal but Liberty has weakened slightly more in recent days so the balance may be tilting back in Rupert’s favour.

The shareholder vote takes place on 3 April at the historic Hudson Theatre in New York. Qantas is naturally trying to charge more than $3000 for a return airfare and refusing to tolerate points at such short notice, so I’m in the market for a proxy.

It’s great fun jousting with Rupert and the first New York AGM only attracted 33 shareholders so you’ll probably have the floor to yourself. Expressions of interest to [email protected].

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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