Rupert Murdoch didn’t want to talk about the marriage talks between Foxtel and Austar during his third-quarter teleconference this morning.
He was chatty about Fairfax and told us not to read anything into the sale of the shares (“They didn’t need our help in their defence”). But when asked about Foxtel/Austar, it was: “You’ll have to ask Foxtel, they’re a separate company”.
But then we read today in The Australian‘s Media section (AKA, the News Corp staff magazine in Australia) that “secret talks between pay-television providers Foxtel and Austar had been abandoned”.
The Foxtel/Austar talks are off because John Malone, Rupert’s Betty Noir, wanted too much for his controlling stake in Austar. Malone has just completed more than two years of torturing Rupe to the point of distraction after raiding his share register during the ill-advised move of domicile from Australia to the US. And now, Malone is standing in the way of Murdoch’s ambitions for a Foxtel monopoly over pay-TV in this country.
It will happen — the rewards are too great for News, PBL/Consolidated Media and Telstra — but they will have to accept that to do the deal they will have to pay Malone’s price of close to $2 a AUN share (they are around $1.71 but will fall today when the news spreads that the talks are off, for now).